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Science for All Summit: Completion of the vision

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By CRYSTAL HARDEN, EdD

CHAPEL HILL, NC (Jan. 17, 2024) — After many years of voicing the purpose of my IDEA work, I decided to put those words down in writing. Once an avid blogger, I decided to share my thoughts again about the why, how, when, and where we think about creating safe spaces where all of us can belong and feel comfortable in a welcoming environment. My new blog series will share these thoughts and the importance of these spaces for those of us working in the IDEA field as well as those seeking a better understanding of equity in STEM.

What sparked the vision? After a visit to Washington, DC, to a convening meeting in May 2022 where I watched colleagues and peers gather to discuss equity in STEM, I thought North Carolina needed a similar gathering and conversation. The central region of North Carolina is a hub for scientific innovation, discovery, and learning; therefore, I felt it needed to have this type of focus on equity in STEM. We were not seeing it as a focus in other spaces here in North Carolina. I brought my vision back home to North Carolina and sought understanding and support from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The Burroughs Wellcome Fund has been a staunch advocate for this work and these conversations for years. The next step was to put it all together. Fortunately, a great team of people was there to help and support this vision and the work.

Crystal Harden (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Morehead created the tagline “Science for All” and has used it as a guiding principle for the organization. Establishing the Science for All Summit was a “no-brainer” for me through my visionary lens. In my mind, I envisioned this convening of colleagues in education and science, thought leaders, and change agents working to create safe spaces of belonging and well-being for those historically excluded and marginalized in STEM education and STEM fields.

After months of hard work and planning, April 2023 brought my vision into existence. More than I could have imagined was the reality of what came to pass in April 2023. Educators, scientists, university/college staff, students, and more gathered to hear about advocating for equity in STEM through the tenets of IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and access). Through their feedback and data, we know that the keynote speakers were inspirational and the best aspect of the conference for our attendees.

What do I hope for 2024? I hope that the energy and vibe in Chapel Hill will be even more engaging for our attendees. I hope that our attendees will be excited to see this year’s dynamic keynote speakers and presenters, as well as participate in an amazing cultural evening experience at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

What else do I envision for the Science for All Summit? I have a vision for this gathering to grow into a full statewide—then national—convening space for those doing and wanting to do IDEA work for STEM. The journey to the Science for All Summit has not inflicted any “pains” except my own personal anxiety to birth this vision. A vision that was born to bridge people of all backgrounds and their cultural identities into STEM was, at times, weighed down by my own personal anxiety around the acceptance of this work from the field and community. Ultimately, as a reconciliation within myself, I had to remember that the fight for equity is never a dream deferred.

We hope that you will join us on February 28-29, 2024. It is a gathering for a vision complete.

Crystal Harden, EdD, is the director of program and inclusion initiatives at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center and an adjunct professor at the UNC School of Education.