Undergraduates learn about the importance of diversity from campus, community and national scientific leaders

Author: Gene Stowe


“Diversity, Culture and Religion in Science,” a full-day course in the Professionalism in Science series, attracted 84 undergraduates to the Jordan Hall of Science on Nov. 10. Speakers from across the campus and community, as well as national leaders on diversity in science, emphasized the importance of diversity in individual attitudes and organizational practices as the global economy accelerates and significant minorities grow in the United States.

Diversity, Culture and Religion in Science

Dean Greg Crawford, who organized the program with Professors Michelle Whaley and Dominic Chaloner, urged participants to meet 100 people from different backgrounds on campus every semester. “Diversity is a big deal,” Dean Crawford said. “You’re going need a diverse workforce to be competitive. You don’t want to think people as only male or female; African American or Caucasian; or as a Muslim, a Catholic or a Jew. You want to think of them as people.”

Jose Alvarez, the Diversity Officer at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, who once worked in banking, opened the talks by emphasizing that diversity and inclusion not only fulfill a “right-thing-to-do” imperative but enhance an organization’s success. He proposed replacing the Golden Rule, “treat others as you want to be treated,” with a Platinum Rule, “treat others the way they want to be treated,” based on real understanding.

Presenters included Dr. Monica Allen-Alexander, Chief of Ophthalmology at Sinai-Grace Hospital – Detroit Medical Center, a Notre Dame alumna and member of the College of Science Advisory Council; Janice Hicks, Deputy Division Director in Materials Research for the National Science Foundation; Joe Whitehead, Dean of the College of Science and Technology at the University of Southern Mississippi; Fields Jackson, founder and CEO of Racing Toward Diversity magazine; and Rev. Hugh Page, Dean of the First Year of Studies at the University Notre Dame.

A panel of scientists included Reggie Hill, Notre Dame Assistant Professor of Cancer Research;  Philippe Collon, associate professor of physics; and Peter Velásquez, adjunct assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame and assistant professor of microbiology immunology at Indiana University School of Medicine – South Bend. A religious diversity panel included Rick Jones, president of the South Bend Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Imam Mohammad Sirajuddin of the Islamic Society of Michiana, and Rev. Robert Sullivan, C.S.C., an associate vice president at Notre Dame.