Image
Sarah Bunnell speaks to the roomful of peolpe who have gather to celebrate the publication of Being Human in Stem

Left to right: Sarah Bunnell, Megan Lyster and Sheila Jaswal at the book launch celebration for Being Human in STEM.

Nearly eight years ago, the four-day Amherst Uprising sit-in in Frost Library inspired the creation of a biology/chemistry special topics course called 鈥淏eing Human in STEM鈥 (abbreviated HSTEM). That class, in turn, spawned an . And now it鈥檚 the subject of a book.

Authored by Sarah Bunnell, associate director and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) specialist in Amherst鈥檚 Center for Teaching and Learning; Sheila Jaswal, professor of chemistry and interim chief equity and inclusion officer; and Megan Lyster, former instructional designer for experiential learning in the Center for Community Engagement (now assistant director of the Wurtele Center for Leadership at Smith College), is a guide for faculty members and administrators looking to better support students of color and other marginalized groups 鈥渨ho have felt unwelcome and unsupported in their past STEM experiences,鈥 the introduction explains. Among other things, the book chronicles how the Uprising inspired the HSTEM course, offers resources for those interested in creating their own version of HSTEM on their campuses, and explores the models of colleges and universities across the country that have successfully developed their own versions of the initiative. In addition, it contains an array of tools for instructors, such as guiding reflective questions to use while teaching, facilitator materials and outlines of student-endorsed exercises 鈥渢hat can foster a sense of belonging and inclusion in classrooms and laboratory spaces.鈥

Image
Former and current students speak during the book launch celebration.

Former and current students speak about their experience taking HSTEM courses.

鈥淚t feels wonderful to be able to share this story as well as the resources and course model that we鈥檝e developed and refined over time at Amherst,鈥 said Bunnell at a March 31 book launch in the Science Center that drew students, staff and faculty alike. She articulated a common theme in the speakers鈥 remarks: that, while the authors can be credited with the initial development of the course at the College, HSTEM 鈥渨as really created by, and continues to be driven by, students鈥攕tudents who care deeply about Amherst and who want to help shape how we teach and learn with each other.鈥 

Several such participants in HSTEM classes over the years, who subsequently became facilitators for it, talked at the celebration about the lessons they personally learned from HSTEM. They also expressed their gratitude for their involvement with the class.

鈥淚 gained a lot of tools that have served me since I took HSTEM, and I made meaningful relationships as well,鈥 said Diego Carias 鈥23, who first took the course virtually and was then invited by Jaswal to serve as a student facilitator. Carias added that he is enjoying the job, as it enables him to see and experience firsthand how 鈥渙ur hard work and dedication helps frame and shape our course today.鈥

Michelle Kha 鈥24, who also participated in the HSTEM course online, noted that it got her thinking about broader issues related to diversity and inclusivity in STEM fields, such as disparities in academia in particular and 鈥渢he absence of voices that are not commonly heard.鈥 Echoing Carias鈥 comments on relationships, she explained that, even in a remote format, she was able to form a special community with peers and 鈥渆ngage with transformative and eye-opening materials.鈥 Now, as a student facilitator, Kha said she鈥檚 gratified to be able to play a role in the course鈥檚 evolution. 鈥淲e are always trying to adjust and improve. It鈥檚 all about listening to a broad range of experiences and having necessary conversations on campus.鈥

Image
A young girl reaches into a black bowl while the attendees at the book launch celebration smile and clap.
Picking random names for book-give-away winners.

The constant evolution of the HSTEM course and the initiative is intentional, said Jaswal, adding that her experiences with HSTEM have had an outsized impact on her own 30-year career. 鈥淎ll of [the students, staff, and faculty participants in HSTEM] have reshaped our own STEM communities, reshaped ourselves and helped each other envision and meet that challenge to continually do better鈥攁nd celebrate as we do it,鈥 she said. 鈥淚n that respect, the impact of the course went beyond any of our wildest dreams.鈥

What They Are Saying About Being in Human in STEM