Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan

Defining diversity, equity and inclusion

The Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences (GE-AT) at Iowa State University is committed to building, supporting, and maintaining a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment. We seek to value the contributions of diverse individuals within our department with regards to race, ethnicity, religious beliefs and national origin, gender identity and expression, sex, sexual orientation, age, class, veteran status and body type, and acknowledge that diverse identities can intersect in individuals.

We recognize a lack of diversity within our department in comparison to the general population, and that this disparity magnifies from undergraduates to graduate students to faculty. Such lack of representation is common among Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, which have had low success at attracting, supporting, and retaining scientists of color and women across all levels (Bernard and Cooperdock, 2018). Barriers to diversifying the geosciences include discrimination and harassment in fieldwork (St. John et al., 2018), hostile departmental culture (Marín-Spiotta et al., 2020), and lack of support of minoritized individual’s and women’s careers through e.g. speaker invitations (Ford et al., 2019).

We believe that a more inclusive and diverse department will make us stronger and more effective at achieving our mission “to establish outstanding research and innovative teaching programs that apply fundamental principles of physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics to cross disciplinary problems related to the Earth sciences” (GE-AT Governance Document). Achieving an inclusive departmental environment involves valuing diverse perspectives and inviting diverse contributions.

Strategies for increasing diversity

We ascribe to the Principles of Community at Iowa State, including the richness of diversity, respect, and freedom from discrimination. We recognize that increasing diversity involves both recruiting and retaining historically excluded individuals, but also a commitment to develop or modify procedures to become more inclusive and equitable. In order to empower and encourage all faculty, staff, and students to live and work by these principles, we have defined the following departmental strategies.

Strategy 1: The DEI committee

A departmental DEI committee is an ad hoc committee that was established by the Chair in 2020 with the goal of promoting DEI efforts across the department. Members are appointed by the Chair according to procedures in the GE-AT Governance Document, and include teaching and tenure-eligible professors who represent the degree programs, as well as faculty engaged in evaluation and promotion activities within the department. Up to two grad students and two undergraduates (one each from the Geology and Meteorology degree programs) can serve on the committee.

To promote DEI efforts, the committee will assist the Chair in departmental adherence to University Policies, procedures of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the Graduate College, those in the Faculty Handbook, and the GE-AT governance document in areas of DEI. The committee will organize regular listening sessions open to faculty, staff, students and affiliates of GE-AT to identify climate issues within the department. The committee can help to escalate issues (e.g. via the Campus Climate Reporting Tool) and interface with other campus units, such as the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, to find solutions to problems. The DEI committee, with input from the department, will establish annual goals for enhancing DEI in the department, informed by issues raised in the listening sessions, and provide an annual outcomes report through the GEAT website.

Strategy 2: Building an inclusive curriculum

We will increase the incorporation of diverse perspectives into the curriculum. The departmental checklist will be a central location for faculty and teaching assistants to find any required or recommended trainings and resources for inclusive course design. The standing Curriculum Committees are addressing courses or requirements that act as barriers to achieving a more diverse and inclusive department and providing accessible and equitable alternatives within the GE-AT degree programs. The development of an interdisciplinary Climate Science major in GEAT will also provide a platform to introduce climate and environmental justice within our curriculum.

The departmental seminar series hosts weekly external speakers that represent a diversity of scientific ideas, as well as the perspectives and contributions of diverse individuals to science. Faculty are being prompted to solicit names of potential invitees with diversity in mind, and the organizers make sure there is representation within the list of invited speakers.

Strategy 3: Diversity through recruitment and retention

Efforts for recruitment and retention will occur throughout the department, including undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral associates, staff, and faculty. In order to recruit diverse undergraduates, faculty will leverage existing programs that interface with high school students from underrepresented groups on STEM activities and outreach (e.g. Science Bound), or work with teachers or districts to enhance Earth Science curriculum at the secondary level. The DEI committee will work to enhance recruitment of diverse graduate students through posting job advertisements, presence at conferences, and through mentoring diverse undergraduate students in research through programs such as the Iowa Illinois Nebraska STEM Partnership for Innovation in Research and Education (IINSPIRE), and the REU Program at ISU. The DEI committee will work with the standing Graduate Admissions committees to evaluate program admission requirements and admission procedures to minimize bias.

The DEI committee will work with the Curriculum Committee and instructors to develop or adopt syllabus language or field trip agreements that emphasize inclusive behavior among students and faculty in courses. The graduate faculty conduct annual student progress evaluations and the department works with mentors to provide financial resources for graduate students. Diverse students in the department will be supported by developing formal partnerships between faculty members and the ISU Society for the Advancement of Chicanos, Hispanics, and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) chapter and the Black Student Alliance. Undergraduate and graduate students will be encouraged to join these programs for enhanced mentorship opportunities.

Faculty search committees will work with Human Resources and to ensure position advertisements are inclusive and disseminated broadly. New faculty are provided with mentors to help them navigate to successful promotion and/or tenure, and receive regular feedback on their progress. Incoming faculty are encouraged to participate in the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) Early Career Faculty workshop, and are eligible for financial support from the department to attend.


Individuals who are accountable to DEI goals within the department contribute to developing a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse academic environment through their actions and efforts. Accountable individuals are continuously building their awareness to recognize and their toolkit for responding to issues. s. Accountability challenges individuals to move beyond defensiveness by acknowledging the effect of their words and actions, regardless of intent, learning from mistakes, and modifying future words and actions.

Multiple training opportunities already exist for faculty and teaching assistants to increase their awareness and skill-set in implementing practices that promote DEI. These include the required Title IX training, taken every 3 years, as well as a mandatory annual Inclusive Classroom Training. Additional training opportunities include a Managing Bias training and many workshops offered by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). Faculty, staff, and graduate students also have the opportunity to sign-up for diversity and development training with the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD). Iowa State has paid the membership fees. Faculty members with voting privileges for hiring and promotion and tenure are expected to complete training on current procedures and best practices before evaluating and voting.

Additional opportunities exist through annual reviews, re-appointments, promotion and tenure, and post-tenure reviews to prompt faculty to describe their participation in DEI efforts, including but not limited to undergraduate and graduate mentoring, recruiting and retaining diverse students and faculty, and outreach and education efforts that target diverse groups. As procedures from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Provost’s Office for evaluation are updated, the department will discuss how contributions toward DEI should be considered in decisions involving raises, promotion, and re-appointment.


Bernard, R.E., Cooperdock, E.H.G., 2018. No progress on diversity in 40 years. Nat. Geosci. 11, 292–295. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-018-0116-6

Ford, H.L., Brick, C., Blaufuss, K., Dekens, P.S., 2018. Gender inequity in speaking opportunities at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. Nat. Commun. 9, 3–8. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-03809-5

Marin-Spiotta, E., T. Barnes, R., Asefaw Berhe, A., G. Hastings, M., Mattheis, A., Schneider, B., M. Williams, B., 2020. Hostile climates are barriers to diversifying the geosciences. Adv. Geosci. 53, 117–127. https://doi.org/10.5194/adgeo-53-117-2020

St. John, K., Riggs, E., Mogk, D., 2016. Sexual harassment in the sciences: A call to geoscience faculty and researchers to respond. J. Geosci. Educ. 64, 255–257. https://doi.org/10.5408/1089-9995-64.4.255