University of Chicago Science Policy Group Puts Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Spotlight with DICE Grant

The University of Chicago Science Policy Group recently received NSPN’s Diverse, Inclusive, and Collaborative Expansion (DICE) Grant. Grace Chesmore, Gourav Khullar, and Paul Jerger, members of the UChicago Science Policy Group and IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in Astronomy), share their insights on how the funding allowed them to invite speakers to spark lasting change in their community.


In the past year, groups and individuals in higher education have mobilised to peer-educate and advocate for anti-racist and inclusive organizations. However, comparatively little action has been taken to prepare future administrators and decision-makers for the task of transforming organizations with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), that focuses primarily on structures of oppression and systemic issues in our communities.

UChicago Science Policy Group teamed up with IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in Astronomy), whose work was recognized at NSPS 2019 with a Best Poster award, to put on a workshop series titled “Shared Leadership and Consensus Building.” Further collaboration with campus groups — the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and the Physical Sciences Division Equity and Inclusion Office (with marginalized folks being current leaders in these spaces) — ensured that the event was not only accessible to UChicago STEM organizations’ leadership, but also to the wider UChicago community.

The Event

Four speakers over the course of two days shared their experience with radical inclusion, organizational health and healing, student advocacy for racial equity policy change, and more. This Zoom conference was attended by more than 50 members of the community!

The first workshop by Pamela Gray Daniel — titled “Creating a Culture of Oneness” — focused on various definitions of DEI terms, and what it meant to be holistically aligned to “DEI values.” Moreover, Pamela’s thoughts centered around action, as opposed to diversity just being a theoretical concept. The workshop addressed questions of shared leadership, and how emotional intelligence, empathy and an OPEN approach to inclusion (Observe | Prioritize | Explore | Nurture) were key in creating community.

Cheryl Leong followed this with their session on “Conscious Leadership: The Path of Radical Inclusion.” Cheryl described their model of reaching radical inclusion in organizations, where conscious leadership was key — the process of ongoing awakening to why, how, who and what happens when we influence actions and thoughts as a leader. The participants discussed their conflict styles, and notions of privilege, while keeping in mind that a structural analysis of imperialism, colonization and capitalism was the path forward (as opposed to a focus on individuals).

Diana Zuñiga kicked off Day 2’s first workshop with her talk titled “Organizational Health and Healing: Sharing Power through Equitable Participatory Practices.” Diana implied the importance of contextualizing oppression in the framework of 4 I’s — Ideological, Institutional, Interpersonal, and Internal. An extensive discussion on individual and shared leadership styles followed. Shared leadership was defined as a mechanism where a collective distributes power in a community, and people lead each other; inclusion is hence tied to this redistribution of power. Diana gave the participants an insight into different models of institutional leadership, such as shared, horizontal, collective and sociocratic, which was followed by a discourse on decision-making frameworks (e.g., convergent facilitation, modified consensus building, etc.).

The conference closed with Lena Carew and The Justice Collective speaking on “Racial Equity Practices: Lessons on the Field.” This talk described lessons learnt from experiences with grassroots organizing in various parts of the US. Being clear about the objective of one’s projects, recruiting strategic external partners, building coalitions, and maintaining moral and practical autonomy were some of the many lessons shared by Lena with the participants (who are community leaders in their own right at UChicago).


The speakers were recorded, and their workshops are shared with the University of Chicago community for ongoing learning. It is crucial to note that organizations at UChicago have already inculcated lessons from this workshop. In an effort to support Black Astronomers at UChicago, the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics is undertaking the largest community project in its history, with efforts like a climate survey, a code of conduct, rules for advisor-advisee expectations and mentorship, an equitable admissions process, etc. Several teams from Astronomy and Astrophysics took advice and lessons from these sessions to implement decision making and conflict resolution frameworks in their own projects.

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To learn more about the University of Chicago Science Policy group, follow them on Twitter: @UCSciencePolicy. Applications for the Diverse, Inclusive, and Collaborative Expansion (DICE) Grant will re-open in July 2021.

A graphic about a workshop series at the University of Chicago. At the top is the title: "Workshop Series: Shared Leadership and Consensus Building". Below, to the left, are four headshots with the names and descriptions of the workshops led by each speaker. First is Pamela Gray Daniel, leading a workshop titled "Creating a Culture of Oneness" on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 1:00 PM Central Time. Second is Cheryl Leong, leading a workshop titled "Conscious Leadership: The Path of Radical Inclusion" on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 3:00 PM Central Time. Third is Diana Zuñiga, leading a workshop titled "Organizational Health and Healing: Sharing Power through Equitable Participatory Practices" on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 1:00 PM Central Time. Last is Lena Carew, leading a workshop titled "Student Advocacy for Racial Equity Policy Change: Lessons from the Field" on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 4:00 PM Central Time. To the right is a description that reads: "Across U Chicago, community leaders are hard at work to make the spaces they occupy as inclusive and equitable as possible. This training and workshop series is an opportunity for community leaders to engage with experts on the concepts of shared leadership and community accountability, with a focus on transformative justice. This event will stimulate conversations on frameworks that are a departure from the traditional hierarchical (and often non-inclusive) model of academic/STEM organizations. The series is open to all members of the community, and is especially designed to foster learning in graduate students on the issues of leadership, shared decision-making, and accountability in our own organizational spaces". In the bottom right corner are the logos of several student groups: the University of Chicago Science Policy Group, the IDEA group (Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Astronomy), the University of Chicago SACNAS chapter, the National Science Policy Network, and the University of Chicago Graduate Council.


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