College of Science hosts 4th annual Diversity, Culture and Religion in Science course

Author: Casey O'Donnell

Reggie Howard

Arthur Fitzmaurice
Arthur Fitzmaurice, Ph.D.

This past Saturday (September 20), the College of Science held its fourth annual Diversity, Culture, and Religion in Science course. This one-day, one-credit course encourages students to consider the role of these three important facets of personal identity in their future endeavors. The course attendees listened to variety of speakers, ranging from successful business people to professional athletes. Students also interact with the speakers and with each other throughout the day to consider diversity-related issues on campus.

"I think that it’s really good that the College of Science offers this course,” said Rose Doerfler, a senior engineering and Chinese double major at Notre Dame. “I think diversity is a topic that can often be overlooked in science and engineering, and this course encourages students to think seriously about it.”

Greg Crawford, William K. Warren Dean of the College of Science, began the event by reminding students that the world today is a far more interconnected place than ever before. He emphasized that diversity is an essential part of scientific and engineering research, as well as business and politics. “Diversity is so important in everything we do,” Crawford said.

Arthur Fitzmaurice, Ph.D., an AAAS Science and Technology Fellow at the National Science Foundation, echoed Dean Crawford’s sentiments on the omnipresence of diverse interactions in the science community. Fitzmaurice focused in particular on the range of religious and political views scientists encounter among their colleagues. He discussed some of his own personal struggles throughout his career in comprehending his identity as a Catholic, a gay person, and a scientist.

Fitzmaurice stressed to the students the importance of fostering a sense of understanding and acceptance in the scientific community. “I encourage you to seek diverse life experiences in your professional and personal lives,” he said. “Be sensitive to those around you and try to get a sense of how their differences add to your community.”

Reggie Howard
Reggie Howard

Recognizing the unique potential of each individual was a topic highlighted by many of the speakers, including Reggie Howard, a former NFL player and current president and executive director of the United Athletes Foundation. This organization, in which over 150 professional athletes support, focuses on revitalizing neighborhoods by rebuilding homes and helping low income families manage their finances.

“Remember that everyone has specific talents, attributes and strengths,” Howard said. “Make it your job to identify what they are in others and draw them out.”

In addition to Fitzmaurice and Howard, several speakers shared their wisdom with Notre Dame students last Saturday. Among them were Frederick Biga, vice president at Goldman Sachs; Philippe Collon, associate professor of physics, director of undergraduate studies and associate chair in the Department of Physics; Reginald Hill, Archibald Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology in Department of Biological Sciences and Harper Cancer Research Institute; Edwin Michael, professor of biological sciences and fellow at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies; Marie Denis Milord, Ph.D., assistant professional specialist and bi-national coordinator for neglected tropical diseases and malaria for the Notre Dame Haiti Program; Nhat Nguyen, rector of Duncan Hall; Monica Chambers, IBM-US Human Resources Leader; Feranmi Okanlami, M.D., ESTEEM student; Rev. Hugh Page, vice president, associate provost, and dean of the First Year of Studies; Miles Andrews, M.D., Granger Community Medicine; Jason Miller, teaching pastor at Granger Community Church; Achmet Salie, Ph.D., founder and director of Islamic Studies and Arabic professor at the University of Detroit Mercy; Deacon Melvin Tardy, assistant professional specialist and chaplain for the First Year of Studies; Fields Jackson, founder and CEO of Racing Toward Diversity Magazine; and Olivet Jones, managing director at the Felicity Group Ltd.

This year, 111 students attended the College of Science’s Diversity, Culture and Religion in Science course. Student reaction to the seminar was highly positive, with attendees expressing support for the College of Science’s efforts to embrace questions of diversity. The course is scheduled to be offered again next year in Fall 2015.