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College DEI grants awarded to NERS

The grants will help the department both recruit and support a diverse student population.

Two U-M Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences (NERS) diversity programs have been given Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 2020–2021 Faculty Grants from the College of Engineering. The programs, Recruiting Trips to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Women’s Colleges and Supporting a Diverse Student Population in NERS, will help the department recruit and support a more diverse student body. 

Recruiting Trips to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Women’s Colleges

The team members supporting this program, Ryan McBride, Carolyn Kuranz, and John Foster, will travel to MSIs and women’s colleges to hold information sessions for students about the exciting research being done in the field today. According to the McBride, “We want students to understand that NERS is about many new and exciting technologies, not Chernobyl or the three-eyed fish on the Simpsons.” 

The team acknowledges that the field of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences is neither diverse at U-M nor across the U.S. with regards to race or gender. The first goal of the proposal is to increase the diversity of the applicant pool to NERS graduate programs which the group hopes will help achieve their ultimate goal of increasing the diversity of researchers and practitioners throughout the field.

Students who attend the sessions will learn about NERS research on:

  • Advanced, carbon-free power sources for energy, environment, and sustainability here on Earth, as well as for compact power sources for space exploration
  • Advanced materials that can stand up to the intense radiation environments found in space and in power stations
  • Advanced detectors and imaging for understanding the radiation environments found in space and on Earth (with many important national security applications, like ensuring nonproliferation of nuclear weapons)
  • Plasmas for computer development, understanding stars, supernovas, astrophysical jets, nuclear fusion, powerful lasers, powerful electromagnetics, and space propulsion

If public health circumstances permit, the team hopes to visit Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), Delaware State University, University of New Mexico, and Bryn Mawr College. McBride, Kuranz, and Foster hope to make two trips each, and will encourage other NERS faculty members to also go on recruiting trips. 

Supporting a Diverse Student Population in NERS

As NERS creates a more diverse student body, it is imperative that the department fosters an inclusive and supportive environment to allow minoritized groups to achieve their academic and professional goals. 

Through this program, NERS will offer: 

  • Stipends for laptops and textbooks for students coming from underrepresented educational, cultural, geographic, or economic backgrounds
  • Leadership stipends for students who participate in DEI activities and are juggling coursework and navigating professional opportunities on top of contributing to an inclusive and equitable environment
  • Inclusive study groups that include dinner for students that attend as public health circumstances permit.

“As the student body is changing in CoE, we cannot expect that the same support structures will serve a more diverse population,” Kuranz said. “It is our responsibility to create an inclusive and equitable environment for our students so that they can be successful. This proposal focuses on equitably meeting the needs of our students and creating an inclusive department. It is also imperative that we recognize the hard work some of our students do to improve the department climate for everyone. This is especially the case when this work falls to already minoritized students.”