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

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Diversity, Equity & 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 22 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 & Universities (HBCU), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI), Tribal Colleges & Universities (TCU), City University of New York (CUNY) campuses, and to other institutions that serve students from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented in the sciences.

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 individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, as identified by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In comparison, 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, 2019). Moreover, half of our students have been women, above the national averages of 40% in chemistry and 46% in biochemistry and biophysics (NSF, 2019).

What We Can Do Better

We recognize that demographic diversity is only one facet of promoting an inclusive, supportive environment for all students, and we have taken numerous actions toward achieving this goal. We hold regular discussions with our students to obtain their insights and feedback and, as a result, have initiated many new efforts along these lines while also increasing 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 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 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 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. In 2021, we also launched a new peer mentoring program that pairs each incoming student with a senior student mentor to provide personalized advice and support. In 2022, we are also launching new training in ‘hidden curriculum’ topics through workshops and our courses.

• To support our international students who come to TPCB from around the world, we work closely with graduate school staff to provide specific information for international students at our recruiting and onboarding events. In 2022, we also established a TPCB International Students Group to provide additional support, peer mentorship, and social events that celebrate our students’ backgrounds from around the world.

• 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 wellness programs.

• To promote inclusion of students from a wide range of social identity groups, our students have access to numerous student groups across the Tri-Institutional campuses, including 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 support students who are also parents in balancing family life and responsibilities with their scientific training, we provide childcare and parenting support through the three institutions. This includes access to dedicated lactation rooms for nursing mothers, institutional childcare centers and backup care, resources for finding babysitters, nannies, and child enrichment programs, and information on NYC public and private schools.

• 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 faculty training in mentorship and cultural sensitivity that is provided by the three institutions. Faculty at MSK and Weill Cornell complete a 4-hour course based on content from CIMER, the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in research). Faculty at Rockefeller complete an online training module created by CITI, the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative. Topics include roles and responsibilities of mentors and mentees, alignment of expectations between mentors and mentees, maintaining effective communication, promoting professional development, and providing a healthy and supportive work environment. 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 with whom they meet regularly to support their scientific training and professional development.

• 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 Tri-Institutional Outreach Committee, which focuses on STEM outreach initiatives for K-12 through undergraduate students, primarily for students from underrepresented groups and those from low-income families. In 2020, our students launched the Tri-Institutional Mentorship Initiative to guide students from underserved backgrounds through the graduate school applications process. This program has been highly successful and helped place mentees in top PhD programs across the country. Our students also participate actively 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. We conduct an annual TPCB Diversity & Inclusion Climate Survey and review the results with our students at the TPCB Student Town Hall each year. These and other ongoing discussions with our students allow us to identify issues that require further attention, which we then act upon, and the TPCB leadership team is accountable for ensuring that these issues are addressed. We also engage in frequent, active discussions with the academic leadership at the three institutions to ensure that our students are provided with the support that they need to thrive.

We seek to be the leaders in the field at promoting diversity and inclusion in science.