NC State psychology professor Kelly Lynn Mulvey will help foster inclusive environments for high school students interested in STEM fields through a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project.
Her project, “Promoting Equitable and Inclusive STEM Contexts in High School,” is funded by a prestigious NSF CAREER award, totaling $1,093,243 over a five-year period. This is the first such award for NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Mulvey’s research aims to reduce adolescents’ experiences of harassment, bias, prejudice and stereotyping in STEM-focused environments.
“An important barrier to persistence in STEM fields relates to a culture in many STEM organizations that fosters discrimination, harassment and prejudicial treatment of those from underrepresented groups,“ Mulvey says. “We know very little about if STEM classroom climates are welcoming to all students and if peers are motivated to help ensure that STEM classrooms are inclusive spaces.”
Mulvey will help identify factors that promote resilience in STEM classes and document how K-12 educators can structure their classrooms and schools to foster success of all students.
“Because adolescence is a critical developmental period during which youth are forming their attitudes, orientations and lifelong behaviors, this research will attend to issues of bias and discrimination well before individuals enter college STEM classrooms or the STEM workforce,” Mulvey says.
The project will also examine high schoolers’ willingness and capacity to engage in bystander intervention — standing up to challenge exclusive, discriminatory or prejudicial behaviors in STEM contexts. This includes training students in key 21st century skills, such as social-cognitive capacities and interpersonal skills, enabling them to speak up and support peers from marginalized backgrounds.
The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.