Race is a concept that transcends disciplines, a shadow that has touched everything from data collection to public health policies. Exposing, discussing, and amending practice and applying science is inherently a multidisciplinary process. Our project was inspired by efforts across the academy to bolster and utilize the Black Lives Matter movement's momentum as an opportunity to engage young scholars through intentionally multidisciplinary pedagogical opportunities on matters of truth, the role of race in science, and the current manifestations of institutional racism in STEM disciplines.
The proposed project sought to directly engage in a dialogue on the production, analysis, and public circulation of science related to race. What is the history of race and truth in science? Beyond individual bias or intent, what does institutionalized racism in science and its impacts look like? Answering these questions is fundamentally an interdisciplinary endeavor and opens up avenues for the humanities to contribute to growing conversations in STEM about race and racism is crucial. We hosted a virtual summer artist-in-residence experience that brought life scientists, humanists, and social scientists together to reflect on the history of science, the categorization of race, and modern-day science practices work within--and might respond to--social structures that are discriminatory and unjust. We investigated scientific knowledge production in tandem with artisanal making, modeled future multidisciplinary partnerships, and mentored future multidisciplinary scholars.
There were three components to this project. The first aspect is this public-facing website that models collaborative, multidisciplinary project planning for students and future programs. Our collaborative team worked together using cross-disciplinary project management theory approaches to develop proposal resources and establish program evaluations and metrics. The results of these efforts are this website and a future publication. Second, we hosted a summer artist-in-residence program for four advanced undergraduates selected because of their established cross-disciplinary interests. To ensure broad representation, four students, one from each Mellon partner institution, who were interested or pursuing a STEM degree were fully funded to participate in the summer program. The proposal collaborators run the 10-week summer program, each directing a 2-week summer program portion. Each collaborator had students create a product that summarizes their section. This included creative writing prompts, STEM professional interviews, or artworks. We documented each collaborator's pedagogical approaches to serve as a model for science practitioners, future multidisciplinary collaborations, and the broader public on these issues. Additional faculty members were asked to write a reflection on their experience. Finally, the third component of the project is the virtual exhibit of students' summative artistic pieces that encapsulate the student's multidisciplinary experience. We also have a physical exhibit located at the Vanderbilt's Innovation Center the Wond'ry.
Ultimately the target audience for the project is multifaceted. We are interested in contributing to the training of collaborative thinkers and STEM professionals. To accomplish this goal, we were interested in documenting pedagogical approaches that support multidisciplinary projects. We wished to model these approaches by documenting transdisciplinary pedagogy on race, science, and art. This effort has focused on amplifying the Black experience in STEM by expanding the scientific process, the historical underpinning of race, and amplifying modern-day Black narratives in STEM professions.