FIRST Action Team Fall 2020, Spring 2021


FIRST Action Team Fall 2019, Spring 2020
group of students

The FIRST Action Team’s specific recommendations in Fall 2020 were to:

1- Create a new partnership with Strategies for Success to support an affinity group.  FIRST Action Team and Strategies for Success are working together to invite talented underrepresented scientists to visit and provide insight into their career path. Underrepresented STEM students will be able to establish networks with and engage in mentoring relationships with other scientists in marginalized groups.

2- Encourage the hiring of additional faculty members of color to bring more diversity to Davidson’s STEM departments. 

3- Host an event in the Math/Computer Science department to encourage first and second year students to consider Math/Computer Science courses. (Update:  FIRST Action Team event occurred on on 10.27.20 and slides from the event are located here.

4- Encourage the use of anti-oppression statements in all course syllabi to continue developing as an anti-racist institution. (Update:  FIRST event on 01.15.21)

5- Bring awareness to the additional need for textbook affordable services and alternate versions of teaching material. (Update:  FIRST event on 02.22.21

The FIRST Action Team hosted an event on office hour best practices on January 31, 2020. Event link here.

The Fall 2020/Spring 2021 Action Team is composed of five noteworthy STEM students (Claire Tobin ’21, Haleena Phillips ’21, Hannah Mallard ’21, Emily Lara ’23, and , Hannah Kamran ’23). They are mentored and coached by FIRST Program Analyst Esther Lherisson ’19.


The FIRST Action Team’s specific recommendations in May 2019 were to:
1 – Pilot a new partnership at Davidson wherein feedback from student partners help STEM faculty members develop more inclusive practices.  SaLT (Students as Learners & Teachers) serves as a successful model to consider.

2020 Update: In response, FIRST launched MILE (More Inclusive Learning Environments) in Fall 2019 with a pilot in Dr. Mario Belloni’s Physics 125 course and in Spring 2020 in Biology 113, Chemistry 240, and Political Science 226. In each FIRST MILE partnership, a student and a faculty member collaborate for a semester with the shared goal of improving current and future student experiences, particularly with regard to learning, course climate/environment, and inclusivity.

2 – To develop STEM courses that meet the Justice, Equality, & Community (JEC) graduation requirement.

2020 Update: Two new STEM JEC courses will be offered in Spring 2020 : Being Human in STEM (Biology 161) and Dr. Che Smith‘s Introduction to Statistics (Math 105).

3 – To increase the diversity of scientists who are invited to campus to give STEM department colloquia/seminars.

2020 Update: Awareness raised by the Action Team has catalyzed  conversations to invite diverse speakers from underrepresented backgrounds to present at Davidson College more frequently.

4 – To improve office hour experiences and interactions by suggesting best practices for both students and faculty members.

2020 Update: The Action Team will host an event on office hour best practices on January 31, 2020. Event link here.

5 – To create and support affinity groups for underrepresented STEM students to establish networks with and engage in mentoring relationships with other scientists in marginalized groups.

2020 Update: STEM students at Davidson College participated in ABRCMS 2019.


The inaugural FIRST Institutional Action Team was formed in Spring 2019 and composed of five influential STEM students (Jonathan Kim ’19, Claudia Hernandez ’20, Sabid Hossain ’21, Kasey Leung ’20, Haleena Phillips ’21) with an alumni coach (Annie Sadler ’17). 

The Fall 2019/Spring 2020 Action Team is composed of five prominent STEM students (Claudia Hernandez ’20, Roy Toston ’20, Sabid Hossain ’21, Wilbert Garcia ’21, and , Tanatswa Muchenje ’22). They are mentored and coached by FIRST Program Analyst Esther Lherisson ’19.

The FIRST Leadership Team initially suggested the Action Team consider the following prompts to guide their work:  What do STEM faculty members need to understand about their students and their experiences?  What are STEM faculty members not seeing/understanding to help all students succeed?  What pushes students toward and away from STEM at Davidson?  How can institutional policies and/or structures be changed to enhance student success in STEM?  If you had a magic wand how would you improve STEM at Davidson?  What is FIRST overlooking?

The Action Team then consulted with a wide constituency of STEM students and alumni by forming a FIRST Consulting Team.  They also created three infographics (1, 2, 3) describing the diversity of Davidson STEM students and faculty members to stimulate informal campus conversations.  Ultimately, the Spring 2019 Action Team identified five specific recommendations to improve inclusivity in STEM at Davidson that they shared with a Board of Trustees committee through this infographic, with the FIRST Leadership Team through this report, and with the campus community as a poster at the Verna Miller Case Symposium.  Moreover, The Davidsonian profiled the initial Action Team in this article.

Suggestions, ideas, and nominations for subsequent FIRST Action Team topics and/or members are welcome at any time by contacting any member of FIRST’s Leadership Team.