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Calling DIBs - Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging - in the Geosciences

Lina Patino Photo

Lina Patino, Head for Disciplinary Programs Section, Division of Earth Sciences


September 25, 2017

Op Ed by Lina Patino

I have been exploring the concept of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, or DIBs, for short. For native English speakers, “Calling DIBs!” may bring back childhood memories of sibling rivalry for the front seat in the car. I am talking about a different type of DIBs - the combination of diversity and inclusion with belonging.

As a community, we have been working toward recruiting more students into geosciences for the discipline to become more diverse. We are also learning what is needed for students to be retained in the discipline, and programs are becoming more inclusive. Yet, we cannot declare success by only increasing the head count unless these students have a real sense of belonging in the geoscience community.

After reading about DIBs (diversity, inclusion and belonging), I had several opportunities to see DIBs in action at three professional conferences: AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) NABG (National Association of Black Geoscientists), and SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Sciences). At each of these, the attendees had a strong sense of belonging.

Although these conferences represented different demographics, three similar guiding principles were at work:

  1. Strong sense of common values. The attendees shared a passion for science demonstrated by sophisticated poster and oral presentations. Yet, these conferences each celebrated science within their unique cultural context.
  2. Recognition of scientists as whole individuals. The session topics acknowledged that the attendees were not only scientists, but also individuals with a range of interests and needs. All three conferences provided a wide range of settings for participants to share information about professional and personal goals, career paths, opportunities and challenges. Participants spoke openly about aspirations and fears. More importantly, a safe space was provided for participants to laugh safely about each other with each other.
  3. A community where everyone has something to give. A common understanding resonated among the participants--they were there to learn and support each other. Mentoring was occurring in all directions: professionals mentoring students; graduate students mentoring undergrads; and professionals learning from the students. As a professional, I was humbled to learn from students through their experiences, commitment to learning and service, and desire to grow.

For the geosciences community, conferences like AISES, NABG and SACNAS may be important venues for students and professionals to receive validation, mitigate the sense of isolation, and reaffirm that they belong in science.

If you want to “call DIBS,” I personally invite you to attend at least one of these conferences and experience first-hand this new type of diversity, inclusion and belonging. The meetings are generally in the late summer/early fall of each year. Upcoming dates are:

Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science Conference
October 19-21, 2017
Salt Lake City, Utah

National Association of Black Geoscientists 26th Annual Technical Conference Announcement
September 5-8, 2018
Location TBD

American Indian Science and Engineering Society National Conference

October 4-6, 2018
Oklahoma City, OK

Originally published Feb. 15, 2017. Revised to reflect Patino's new profession title and new conference dates.

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