From March 25th to the 29th, we attended the AAC&U Conference on Diversity, Equity, and Student Success in Pittsburgh, PA. Dr. Sarah Bunnell, Bonnie Lin, and I (Michaela Ednie) prepared and presented a poster during this conference. Dr. Bunnell currently works at Amherst College as the Associate Director and STEM specialist in our Center for Teaching and Learning and actively supports the HSTEM initiative. Bonnie (class of 2019) took the HSTEM course in the spring of 2018 and remains an active participant in the initiative. I began my involvement in HSTEM by co-facilitating the summer condensed course in 2018 after graduating from Amherst and continued on as the HSTEM post-bac fellow, assisting with the overall initiative and co-facilitating the spring 2019 course.
I'm confident that Dr. Bunnell and Bonnie would agree with me that the conference was a lot of fun! Due to travel restraints, Bonnie and I didn't make the keynote address the first evening, so our first event was the poster session where we were presenting. Our poster detailed some of our findings on the impact of incorporating HSTEM practices in classrooms. (Check out the full poster below!) At first, both Bonnie and I were slow and/or a little clumsy at explaining the poster to visitors. It was very early in the morning, after all. Once we got the hang of things, however, we were engaging the audience beyond just the information on the poster. Almost everyone wanted a copy of the poster and business cards. We also had the HSTEM brochure for folks to look through, but we didn’t have copies to give out. A few times during workshops or meals after the session, people who came to the poster recognized me and asked a few more questions. There were also times when the poster session in general came up and that led to more people asking questions (luckily, I was carrying more copies of the poster to give them!), so there was lots of interest in our work. I loved getting to talk about it so much!
There were so many sessions that I was interested in, it was hard to settle on just one for each timeslot. I feel I learned a lot from the sessions I attended, and I met a lot of great people. I attended sessions on microagressions, inclusive classroom practices, program planning, and serving disadvantaged students. The closing plenary on disabilities was absolutely incredible; I really wish there was a video of it on the site! Amanda Kraus from the University of Arizona was such a great speaker and really kept the audience engaged. The thing that sticks out for me most was when I realized halfway through the presentation that Amanda was describing the location and contents of any images or figures that came up on the slides. She did it so naturally, and it’s definitely something I plan on doing in my future presentations. I consider myself to have great vision (with my glasses), but even so, I couldn’t tell what some of the pictures were from my position in the crowd. I was grateful for her descriptions, and I bet many others were as well. She pointed it out near the end of her talk as one of a few simple ways to make presentations more accessible. The presentation she used at the conference is included on the AAC&U website.
Overall, I absolutely loved this conference. I learned a lot and got to connect with people and share stories. The conference was such a great experience for me and exposure for HSTEM. I’m excited at how much interest HSTEM is generating!