Department of Chemistry wins Regents’ Diversity Award

February 3, 2020

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Chemistry has received a 2020 Diversity Award from the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. The award recognizes the department’s efforts to enhance underrepresented students’ access to and success in the chemistry graduate program.

“This award celebrates a key point in our progress toward fostering greater diversity in our discipline and is just the beginning of our efforts” says Judith Burstyn, department chair. “These achievements are the result of everyone in the department who works tirelessly to build diversity through the creation of key programs and mentorship of students.”

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Members of the UW–Madison chemistry department receive a Diversity Award at the Board of Regents meeting held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Feb. 7, 2020.

The field of chemistry has long lacked diversity. According to the American Chemical Society (ACS), the number of females receiving bachelor’s degrees in the discipline is increasing, but the number of doctoral recipients, postdoctoral scientists, and professional chemists who stem from other traditionally underrepresented populations is still low.

“Everyone benefits from diverse perspectives,” says Burstyn. “We recognized that need in our department and have worked to find effective solutions.”

The Department of Chemistry has created several programs aimed at increasing diversity in the field and at supporting students who pursue a graduate degree. Chemistry Opportunities (CHOPs), which brings in students from minority-serving institutions, and Research Experiences for Undergraduates both facilitate undergraduate exploration of the department’s doctoral program. For graduate students, the department offers Catalyst, a supportive mentoring program for underrepresented minority and first-generation students.

The strength and effectiveness of the first three programs led the ACS to select the department as its first partner for a Chemistry Bridge to the Doctorate program, which aims to increase the number of doctoral degrees completed by underrepresented minorities. A select group of students bolster their experience and applications to top PhD programs by completing a research-based master’s degree, with the benefit of well-coordinated mentorship.

“Consistent with UW–Madison’s commitment to recruit, retain and graduate a diverse student body, the Department of Chemistry embraced their role in supporting diversity by creating highly effective initiatives to increase representation within their large graduate program,” says Gloria Mari Beffa, associate dean in the Colleges of Letters & Science, in her nomination letter.

The Board of Regents awards the winners $7,500, which the chemistry department will use to support its programs. The Diversity Awards are administered by the UW System Office of Academic and Student Affairs. The other recipients are Associate Professor Arijit Sen, from the UW–Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and UW–Stout’s Fostering Success program. The three winners will be recognized at the Feb. 7 meeting of the Board of Regents in Madison.