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RISE center appoints student ambassadors to make STEM more inclusive

The group, created by the Research for Inclusive STEM Education Center, seeks to identify inequities in STEM education through listening sessions and panels

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RISE ambassadors will work to make STEM at ASU more inclusive by identifying inequities in education and implementing strategies.

The ASU Research for Inclusive STEM Education Center has launched a group of RISE ambassadors, bringing together undergraduate students determined to make STEM at ASU more inclusive by identifying inequities in education and implementing strategies.

The RISE Center founded the group, composed of 13 undergraduate ambassadors, in January 2023. 

The ambassadors were chosen by first submitting an application and later attending the Natural Sciences Inclusion Summit, where they were asked to write a reflection on their experience. From there, Sara Brownell, a professor at the School of Life Sciences and the director of RISE Center, selected 13 students to become RISE ambassadors.

Brownelland Kristen Parrish, an associate professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment launched the RISE Center in 2020 to research inequities in college STEM fields. The pair now work to recruit students in the STEM field to join the program.

"Before the RISE ambassadors, we mostly were talking as a group of faculty, and that was fine. But I think that sometimes we struggled to understand what students' lived experiences are and so by bringing in the students into the conversation ... it’s like really renewed a sense of life into the center," Brownell said. 

By adding students as representatives, Brownell said it creates a ground-up program where students who care about diversity, equity and inclusion can make a difference at ASU and improve programs within the School of Life Sciences. 

Analy Granados, a RISE ambassador and senior studying biomedical sciences, learned about the program while taking animal physiology (BIO 360)with Brownell, who sent an email notifying students about ambassador openings for the center at the end of last year.

"(The email) was asking why are you interested in inclusion in higher education, and my minor is anthropology so it ties into people, communication and cultures. So, I thought it would be a really good opportunity to hone in on that part of my study," Granados said. 

The RISE Center has a variety of resources for both students and faculty, and is working on creating more to make it easier for students to thrive throughout their STEM education. 

 "I hope people know that this program exists, that there are people who are advocating for students to have more equity when it comes to education, and just know that there are people who are doing research to see how they can help, there are people who really care," Granados said.  

On the Center's Instagram page, students are able to sign up for listening sessions to talk about their experiences in the School of Life Sciences and how it can be more inclusive. 

A listening session was held Tuesday night and centered the conversation around having a disability as an ASU student. 

"The goal of this initial listening session is to just identify what are the experiences of students with disabilities. We’ve done some research on it already, but this is an opportunity for anyone to share, and then to have some open dialogue about what might be possible solutions," Brownell said. 

Vivian Bui, a RISE ambassador and junior double majoring in neuroscience and biological sciences, learned about the program through Brownell while taking her animal physiology class. 

This semester, Bui has worked on accommodations for marginalized communities, such as creating a resource page for ASU students with disabilities.

"I believe ASU should always focus on inclusivity. Even if we say our campus is inclusive, I believe that there is always more work to be done," Bui said. "I hope ASU can bring more attention to resources such as the RISE Center itself and other places that advocate for similar ideologies."

While the RISE ambassador program is just in its early stages, the students are working on putting out a variety of resources and panels. 

Edited by Sadie Buggle, Jasmine Kabiri and Grace Copperthite.

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