Carrie Thomas ~ Catalyst for Engagement

Wading at the beach

Innovation Means Inclusion

COSEE Southeast students at sea
COSEE SouthEast has consistently tackled the multi-dimensional goal of engaging underrepresented groups in careers in ocean science research. "The ocean sciences community would like the workforce to represent what the demographics of this country are," says COSEE SouthEast PI Dr. Lundie Spence. "And that's been a huge challenge. In our program we've tried to address it a couple of different ways." In 2003, COSEE SouthEast brought a group together to spend three days talking with a facilitator, resulting in Finding Successful Strategies Through a Charrette Design. The next step was the formation of a diversity task force, and the current COSEE SouthEast Board of Advisors is one-third people of color.

Dr. Thomas has worked extensively on COSEE SouthEast diversity initiatives. "Within her own role at NC State she works with diversity projects," says Lundie Spence, "so working with us is an extension of what she does in her own department."

"One example is our Coastal Legacy program," says Carrie, "in which we highlighted the technology and hydrology and agriculture brought over by enslaved Africans." The program brings educators and students out into the field to show them direct effects of this history and, according to survey results, excels at engaging the participants.

COSEE SouthEast has completed several surveys and assessments of their work on diversity issues. Carrie participated in the 2009 Survey on Diversity in Ocean Sciences Workforce In Federal and State Agencies and in Institutions of Higher Education In North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia and was one of the authors of the final report

Annotated Bibliography
Prepared by the COSEE Diversity Working Group, this extensive annotated bibliography highlights key COSEE resources that relate to increasing diversity in the sciences.
COSEE SouthEast also runs activities that introduce role models at all stages in the pipeline. "It's a scaffolding exercise," says Carrie, "You have to have teachers who can deal with multicultural classrooms. You also have to have role models and societal relevance to make it an attractive field. You have to hit this problem from many different levels and from many different directions."

Thanks to a grant from NSF's Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences (OEDG) a forum will be held in Fall 2010 at which scientists and university administrators will brainstorm on successful programs that address diversity issues. "This is a brainchild of Carrie Thomas," says Lundie, "who realized that there are lots of programs going on and very little sharing of what works. It's a complex problem and it's not one that's going to be solved with one program." "We're finding that there are a lot of smaller initiatives that people aren't necessarily aware of," says Carrie. "Some of them are great models and, with a little more networking, could have much greater impact and involvement."