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Action Plan from the Physics & Astronomy Diversity Committee, 31 August 2020

As a department, we are committed to fighting conscious and unconscious discrimination within physics and astronomy and in the broader world. On July 10, 2020, the Diversity Committee held an open meeting, asking everyone in the department to join us in developing plans of action to harness our collective passion for racial and social justice. To continue the discussions and pursue the action items identified in that meeting, we have now created a department-wide Slack workspace — physast-diversity.slack.com. This Slack space has the express purpose of building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. If you are a member of the department, you should have received an invitation to join from the Associate Chair for Diversity & Mentoring. If you are not a member of our department but are just curious what we’re up to, this link describes the projects we will be pursuing.


Outreach     Diversity     Social Life     Support Resources     Contacts     Trainings     |     Teaching Resources

Our Department

We study the Universe both to help solve the world’s problems and to open up new frontiers of understanding for humanity. Our enterprise is inherently global: we rely on the combined efforts of people from all over the world. It is also inherently open-minded: we embrace logical inquiry and empiricism, which unite us regardless of race, gender, sexuality, disability, and religious and political beliefs. We affirm the commitment of the department to maintaining a welcoming and protected space for science and thus for everyone who joins in our shared enterprise. This community page provides contact information for faculty, staff, and students who hold departmental positions that support this mission, as well as links to UNC resources ranging from confidential support to formal investigation of problems. We welcome input on further actions we can take to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in our department and in the larger world of physics and astronomy. We also thank the many members of our department who engage daily in creating a welcoming community.

Activity tables led by the Lopez, Kannappan, and Oldenburg research groups at the UNC Science Expo exploring the optics of feathers and butterflies, making construction paper galaxies with glue and glitter, and conducting laser experiments in a box.

Outreach

Outreach is an important part of department life. The “Carolina Physics on the Road” demo show visits area schools and public events such as the annual UNC Science Expo, part of the North Carolina Science Festival. With support from the Stirling Foundation, the department hosts Science is Awesome Day in which hundreds of local fourth-graders from Title IX public schools visit for a day-long field trip supporting NC curricular standards Most Friday evenings, astronomers staff the Morehead Observatory Guest Night, offering fascinating presentations and an opportunity to look through the telescope. The online Skynet control system enables anyone to take an astronomical image using one of many remotely controlled telescopes linked into its worldwide education and research network. Research groups, student groups, and individuals give outreach talks and host activity tables at schools, museums, and special events such as the department’s SHAPE symposium for high school physics teachers, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences “Astronomy Days”, and the Women and Math Program’s Marjorie Lee Browne Day. We also welcome visitors into our labs for tours and sometimes research experiences, through the Carolina ADMIRES program for high school students and two summer programs, a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at TUNL and a Computational Astronomy and Physics Summer Boot Camp (CAP).

Diversity

Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all is key to the mission of the department. Our community is culturally diverse, with students from all over the world and an international faculty representing North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Our faculty is over 20% female (40-50% at the assistant/associate professor level), representing significant recent improvement over the national norm. Nonetheless, like other physics departments, we still have work to do to improve the representation of women and minorities at all levels. We have committed to a sustained effort to remove barriers to success in our department, through self-education about best practices in admissions, hiring, mentoring, teaching, and review/promotion. After reforming our graduate admissions and mentoring, we were selected as an APS Bridge Program Partnership Institution in 2016, and this year we will further modernize our graduate course and exam structure. At the undergraduate level, we are engaged in a continual effort to improve advising, webpages, and other forms of communication, to equalize access to opportunities, mentoring, and networking. Self-education is important to our continued improvement, and in recent years many of our faculty and students have been exposed to materials on unconscious bias, test anxiety, the impostor syndrome, and microaggressions. So far this year we have held department-wide workshops on sexual harassment and LGBTQ sensitivity, and 22 members of the department are now official Safe Zone allies. Additional events focused on community dialogue are planned.” The Diversity Committee will also continue to work on expanding unconscious bias training and implementation of best practices in the realm of faculty and staff hiring, mentoring, and review/promotion.

Social Life

The department social committee organizes six department-wide events: a welcome back picnic, Halloween party, holiday party, winter party, spring picnic, and summer happy hour to celebrate the first-year graduate students’ ascension. Additional social gatherings include special staff events, undergraduate club activities for Visibility in Physics at UNC and the Society of Physics Students, and graduate student outings including an annual trip to Kerr Lake. If you’re new to the department, please ask the Director of Undergraduate or Graduate Studies (as appropriate) and also staff in the main office to be added to all relevant department listservs so you’ll be in the loop about upcoming events. Also, reach out to the contacts below so we know to look out for you!

Faculty, staff, grad and undergrad students dressed in Hawaiian leis for the winter party and wacky costumes for Halloween. Watch out for Duane Deardorff juggling on stilts!

Support Resources

Contacts

Diversity Committee Members

Each member of the Diversity Committee has participated in a Hollaback Bystander Intervention training and we are working to provide a customized bystander intervention training opportunity for the department. Each member of the Diversity Committee is ready to hear from and try to help anyone who is experiencing identity-related stress in our department.

Additional Contacts

Physics and Astronomy Undergraduate Academic Advising (scroll to bottom of page)
Physics and Astronomy Graduate Student Association (e.g., President, Social Officers)

Note regarding confidentiality: Certain employees of the university, such as the Department Chair and Associate Chairs, are required to report certain violations (e.g., Title IX) if they become aware of them. If you wish to discuss a concern confidentially and are not ready to report it officially, please ask the person you are approaching what they can keep in confidence.

Trainings

Many members of our department have taken trainings to help them provide support and resources related to different topics. All of these people are willing to serve as allies. For faculty and staff allies, please see the contact information listed below. For student allies, please contact Maggie Jensen (listed below) who maintains a database of their trainings and contact information. Please be aware that some faculty and staff are designated as Responsible Employees by the University which means they are mandated reporters so any disclosures can’t be held in complete confidence. Known responsible employees are labeled with an *asterisk, but these designations can change so please ask the person to be sure.

Name Training(s) Preferred Contact
Daniel Ayangeakaa Haven ayangeak@unc.edu
Gökçe Basar Haven gbasar@email.unc.edu
Shane Brogan Green Zone, Mental Health First Aid, Safe Zone brogshan@physics.unc.edu
Gerald Cecil Green Zone, Haven cecil@physics.unc.edu
Jhon Cimmino Green Zone, Haven, Mental Health First Aid, Safe Zone, UndocuCarolina jhonc@email.unc.edu
Art Champagne Haven artc@physics.unc.edu
Alice Churukian Haven, Safe Zone adchurukian@unc.edu
Duane Deardorff * Haven, Safe Zone 919-962-3013
Louise Dolan Haven ldolan@physics.unc.edu
Joaquin Drut * Haven drut@email.unc.edu
Jon Engel * Haven, Mental Health First Aid engelj@physics.unc.edu
Adrienne Erickcek * Haven, Safe Zone erickcek@physics.unc.edu
Mike Falvo Haven falvo@physics.unc.edu
Julieta Gruszko * Haven, Safe Zone jgruszko@unc.edu
Fabian Heitsch * Green Zone, Haven, Mental Health First Aid, Safe Zone fheitsch@unc.edu
Reyco Henning Haven rhenning@unc.edu
David Hill Haven david_b_hill@med.unc.edu
Christian Iliadis * Haven iliadis@physics.unc.edu
Robert Janssens Haven rvfj@email.unc.edu
Stefan Jeglinski * Haven jeglin@physics.unc.edu
Maggie Jensen Carolina Firsts, GreenZone, Haven, Mental Health First Aid, Safe Zone, UndocuCarolina mejensen@email.unc.edu, 919-962-7173
Sheila Kannappan * Haven, Mental Health First Aid, Safe Zone sheila@physics.unc.edu
Dmitri Khveshchenko Haven khvesh@email.unc.edu
Rene Lopez Haven rln@email.unc.edu
Andrew Mann * Haven, Safe Zone awmann@unc.edu
Laurie McNeil Haven, Mental Health First Aid, Safe Zone mcneil@physics.unc.edu
Jack Ng Haven yjng@physics.unc.edu
Amy Nicholson * Haven, Safe Zone annichol@email.unc.edu
Nicolas Pegard * Haven pegard@unc.edu
Rich Superfine Haven, Safe Zone rsuper@physics.unc.edu
Frank Tsui * Haven ftsui@physics.unc.edu
Colin Wallace Haven cswphys@email.unc.edu
Sean Washburn * Green Zone, Safe Zone sean@physics.unc.edu
Jen Weinberg-Wolf * Carolina Firsts, Green Zone, Haven, Mental Health First Aid, Safe Zone jweinber@physics.unc.edu
John Wilkerson * Haven jfw@unc.edu
Yue Wu * Haven yuewu@email.unc.edu
Dan Young Haven dyoung4@email.unc.edu
Otto Zhou * Haven zhou@email.unc.edu