In the News

New NSF Grant to support Asian Americans and Pacific Islander students in Geoscience
Press Release by Mae Jackson, Communications Specialist, Brown University

Hunter College is collaborating with seven other institutions on a new initiative that fosters belonging and participation among Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students in the geosciences. This National Science Foundation-funded project, titled AGILE (AAPI in Geoscience: Inclusivity, Leadership, and Experience), is a collaboration between 8 different institutions and is led by Daniel Ibarra (Brown University) and Kimberly Lau (Penn State). Through a number of innovative and collaborative programs and events, the grant project aims to improve the awareness of geosciences among AAPI undergraduates and cultivate a national network of mentors that will boost AAPI participation in geoscience graduate programs and careers.

Hunter College is an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander- serving institution, and has a strong Department of Geography and Environmental Science, therefore Hunter College is well positioned to play a large role in helping increase participation of AAPO in the geosciences. Randye Rutberg, from the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at Hunter College, and coinvestigator on the new project, will work with collaborator Haydee Salmun (also from Geography and Environmental Science) and other collaborators on establishing the research visit program and the research internship program, as well as participate in career development events and workshops. These efforts will connect students with invaluable research experience and enhance professional skills needed to succeed in the field of geosciences.

This project aims to bring geoscience opportunities to STEM students across many geoscience adjacent departments including: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics and Physics with a focus on recruiting students of Asian American and Pacific Islander backgrounds that are underrepresented in the geosciences,” says Rutberg. “This is particularly important in New York City, a highly diverse city in a region vulnerable to climate related changes in sea-level and as well as other environmental issues. We aim to provide greater access to geoscience education and resources to students so that they have tools to make an impact in the field”.

The grant funds a number of exciting new initiatives, including a pilot Research Visit Program that will support short visits by faculty, graduate students, and other scientists to AAPI-serving institutions to bring awareness of geoscience careers and graduate school to AAPI students. The project also includes career-development events and workshops, and an Undergraduate Research Internship that will connect students with meaningful geoscience research and learning opportunities. Through all of this, the project plans to expose as many as a thousand undergraduates across the country to geoscience research and careers, establish a new research internship opportunity, and create national cross-career connections between AAPI geoscientists in diversity and inclusion discussions.

“We AAPI geoscientists don't typically discuss issues of identity, despite the fact that AAPI representation in the geosciences lags far behind other STEM fields and national demographics," says Ibarra. “This is an opportunity to highlight AAPI scientists who have pursued careers in geosciences, and create a framework for them to give back to undergrads at AAPI-serving institution, creating a crosscareer network of support, which is pretty exciting.”

In addition to Daniel Ibarra, Kimberly Lau, and Randye Rutberg, the team includes Sora Kim (UC Merced), Sonya Legg (Princeton University), David Ho (University of Hawaii), Jessica Wang (Bellevue College), and Sam Ying (UC Riverside). The majority of the Principal Investigators on the project identify as AAPI and are associated with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Geosciences (AAPIiG), a new grass roots, member-driven organization founded by Ibarra, Lau, and Christine Y. Chen (Lawrence Livermore National Lab) in 2020.

Portions of this content are courtesy of Mae Jackson, Brown University