Weill Cornell Medical College The Rockefeller University Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

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Diversity & Inclusion

Our Diversity Is Our Strength

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The Tri-Institutional PhD Program in Chemical Biology (TPCB) has a longstanding commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in science. We have zero tolerance for racism or discrimination in any form and work actively to combat unconscious bias in our admissions and recruitment processes, our curriculum and academic evaluations, and our scientific and social events. Over the last 20 years, the program has welcomed students from a wide range of backgrounds, and we strive to help all of our students achieve their maximum scientific and professional potential, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and socioeconomic background. We celebrate our diversity, work continuously to identify areas where we can improve and enhance our efforts in this regard, and take decisive actions to address these issues proactively and effectively. We promote these ideals in our TPCB community and across the scientific community at large.

Our Track Record

We work actively to recruit a diverse pool of applicants to TPCB. Our faculty, students and staff regularly attend the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), the Leadership Alliance, the NIH Graduate and Professional School Fair, and the American Chemical Society National Meeting Graduate School Fair. We also do direct outreach to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI), City University of New York (CUNY) campuses, and to other institutions that serve students from underrepresented and disadvantaged groups and those with disabilities.

As a result, since the inception of TPCB in 2001, nearly a quarter of our students have come from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented in the sciences, including those from racial and ethnic groups identified as underrepresented in the U.S. by the National Science Foundation (NSF), students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds identified by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and individuals with disabilities. In contrast, nationwide, only 10.4% of chemistry graduate students and 12.6% of biochemistry and biophysics graduate students belong to underrepresented racial and ethnic groups (NSF, 2016 data). Moreover, half of our students have been women, above the national averages of 40% in chemistry and 46% in biochemistry and biophysics (NSF, 2016 data).

What We Can Do Better

We recognize that student diversity is only one facet of promoting an inclusive, supportive environment for all students, and we have taken numerous actions toward achieving this goal. Following recent discussions with our students, we have initiated several new efforts along these lines as well as increased the visibility of the support that we provide.

• To ensure that all students receive formal training on diversity and inclusion, we piloted a new section of the Tri-Institutional Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) course in the summer of 2020 on Racism, Discrimination, and Bias in Science. The discussion was required for all incoming students and was organized in cooperation with the Tri-Institutional Computational Biology & Medicine Program, the Weill Cornell Graduate School Office of Student Diversity, the MSK Office of Scientific Education & Training, and the MSK Office of Research Outreach & Compliance. This was the first such workshop in the nation and has served as the basis for further integration of these critically important discussions into the Tri-I RCR Course that is required of all students and postdoctoral fellows across our three campuses.

• To help alleviate the financial burdens of applying to graduate school, we provide proactive application fee waivers to students recruited through diversity and pipeline programs, and also reimburse the costs of official transcripts and score reports for students who matriculate in the program. All TPCB graduate students receive guaranteed stipend support, subsidized housing that is on or near campus, health insurance, as well as an annual research allowance that can be used for moving expenses, research supplies including a computer or laptop, and attendance at scientific conferences.

• To support students who may face challenges and stresses both within and beyond context of their graduate studies, we provide extensive mental health and wellness support through the three institutions. This includes access to free on-site counseling, referrals to medical professionals, and access to a variety of student groups across the Tri-Institutional campuses, such as the Tri-Institutional Minority Society (TIMS), Esprit de Corps, LGBTQ+, People at Rockefeller Identifying as Sexual Minorities (PRISM), Rockefeller Inclusive Science Initiative (RISI), and Women in Science at Rockefeller (WISeR).

• To provide role models for all of our students, we ensure strong representation of scientists from diverse backgrounds in our seminar series and program events, including our annual Tri-Institutional Chemical Biology Symposium. Each year, our faculty speakers must include at least 20% who come from underrepresented groups and at least half who are women. We also seek to invite scientists from other diverse backgrounds as much as possible.

• To ensure that students receive outstanding, thoughtful mentorship throughout their training, all TPCB faculty members are required to complete training in mentorship and cultural sensitivity that is provided by the three institutions. Faculty are also encouraged to attend ongoing mentor training workshops and seminars that are organized across the three campuses. In conjunction, we provide our students with resources to help them make the most of their interactions with their mentors, both within TPCB and beyond. Incoming students are paired with faculty First-Year Advisors who assist them in selecting rotations, thesis labs, coursework, and in establishing an Individual Development Plan. Subsequently, all students maintain a thesis committee of at least four TPCB faculty members and are encouraged to meet with the committee regularly as well as intermittently as needed to support their scientific training and professional development.

• To assist new students with the transition to graduate school and life in New York City, our TPCB Student Orientation Committee hosts a series of welcome events during the summer upon arrival on campus. Next year, we will also be launching a new intiative to pair each incoming student with a senior student mentor, who will provide personalized advice and support.

• To foster a culture of outreach to the next generation of scientists, we strongly encourage all TPCB students to participate in outreach programs. Our students are outstanding role models for young scientists from all backgrounds, and have taken on leadership roles in the newly formed Tri-Institutional Outreach Club, which focuses on STEM outreach initiatives for K-12 through undergraduate students, primarily for students from underrepresented groups and those from low-income families. Our students also participate in ongoing outreach programs and events such as those organized by RockEDU Science Outreach.

Our Ongoing Commitment

We continuously evaluate the effectiveness of our policies and activities in promoting diversity and inclusion in science. Our leadership team holds regular discussions with our students to identify issues that require attention and is accountable for ensuring that they are addressed. We also engage in active discussions with academic staff leading diversity efforts at the three institutions to ensure that our students are provided with the support that they need to thrive.

Our goal is to be the leaders in the field at promoting diversity and inclusion in science.