Diverse experiences with culturally responsive teaching

After thoughtful group discussion of our personal experiences with culturally responsive teaching, we’ve come to the agreement that there is no one way to be culturally responsive. These inclusive practices occur across multiple domains (e.g., within the course content, through instruction, in relationships with students). They also look different across different disciplines. Here are a few of our experiences from our disciplines of psychology, architecture, animal science, and engineering. 

Alexis: Topics of culture and diversity are often naturally interwoven in psychology course content. At the same time, much of the existing literature in psychological science is based on very white, middle-class, westernized groups of people. Thus, it can require some extra effort in order to include ethnic and cultural diversity in my classes. I have increasingly tried to be conscious of whose work I am highlighting during class, and to share the work of psychologists from underrepresented backgrounds. However, it can also be difficult to do this in a way that isn’t tokenism. I often wonder how to appropriately approach these issues in the classroom and how to achieve culturally responsive teaching strategies in a thoughtful and meaningful way.

Mahnaz: When it comes to some fields of study such as architecture, differences can become influential and reduce performance. For instance, the different unit system that is used in the United States is completely different from what is used in many other countries. Although it is possible to complete a project with the metric system and change it to English Units at the end, it is not always accepted. Converting the units, which can be a simple issue, can become a huge hindrance even to understanding the scale of your project and know what you are designing. Overall, it can negatively influence a student’s performance.

Mohammed: Saudi Arabia has less diversity in its education system than the United States. However, in Saudi Arabian higher education, most students prefer to work as a group in class discussions and projects to get multiple different experiences and take different viewpoints. Moreover, hands-on experience in engineering colleges in Saudi Arabia has increased in the last ten years. This yields to develop culture education in a class. The integration between hands-on experience and group discussion in a class can be considered as a good teaching strategy in higher education.   

Sara: Integrating individual life experiences is essential to the learning process. When teachers embrace this fact they are likely to be more successful. I try to embrace this in my own classroom, where I attempt to teach 150 new students the basics of Animal Science. The biggest challenge I face is that within my population of students exists individuals that grew up around livestock and then I have others that have only ever had a pet cat. This wide range requires me to make sure that all students get the opportunity to ask questions when they are lost in the material and to keep the advanced students engaged while helping out the other students. Trying to treat all of my students like blank slates in this class would alienate half of my students from the material that I am so passionate about; alternatively, taking the approach that all students are ready to dive into a discussion about species management strategies will alienate the other half. There is no right way to teach this class, my only goal for the class is to have every student ready for the next level of Animal Science classes within the department. 

The “cultural” component of culturally responsive teaching is more than just considering the ethnic or racial background of students within our class. Our experiences highlight this fact and we all feel better having had this conversation.

Expanding student access to CHEP at VT

This week I attended the 12th annual Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy (CHEP) put on by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at VT. I am very appreciative to have had the opportunity to attend the conference- as my registration was arranged and paid by the graduate teaching scholars program that I am involved in. This conference gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with faculty members of other institutions that shared a common interest- higher education teaching. It was also notable to me that most of the attendees were faculty with primarily teaching roles and many from non-research institutions. I have only ever attended land grant research institutions, so this was a valuable opportunity for me. Additionally, this was the conference I have attended that was outside my discipline.

I am privileged to get the opportunity to attend this conference because 1) I was made aware of this conference and 2) my $50 registration fee was covered. I noticed that the only other students I met (who weren’t presenting at the conference) were those in my program. I worry that this conference is missing out on having students attend and giving them opportunities to attend. I think developing a student-oriented activity or session would enhance the conference. They could invite graduate students involved in higher education programs at VT (such as the GTS program I’m involved in, those enrolled in the future professoriate certificate programs, the Engineering Ed department, and programs in the school of education) and other Virginia universities. To enable more students to attend I would ask that the conference lowers the registration price for students- by targeting more students and creating programing for them specifically I think you would be able to offset the cost of lowering registration. If the conference is still concerned, they could make one of the student activities at a separate lunch time activity and offer a simpler lunch (like pizza or sandwiches)- I’m guessing here that the nice buffet lunch was one of the largest expense to justify the registration cost. I would love to see the conference add a networking & careers program for students because there is so much that a graduate student misses in learning about careers in higher education while siloed at their own institution. Also providing graduate students a place to interact with peers that share a common interest in higher education is an invaluable experience.

Altogether I appreciate the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at VT for putting on the annual Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy and am hoping to continue attending in the future- even though I have ideas for expansion.


Embracing Inclusive Pedagogy in MY Classroom

The biggest hurdle for me to overcome in adopting inclusive pedagogy is how to holistically integrate the principles into my class in Animal Science in a meaningful way. I will concede I like the idea of implementing “ground-rules” related to creating a brave space for the classroom community, but I am concerned that starting conversations on tough subjects, not explicitly course content will detract from the sense of community within my classroom. One such example is addressing the history at our own institution.  At VT the Smithfield Plantation used to keep slaves, the university does not openly discuss this painful fact. Yet there are locations on campus – mainly near the farms on plantation road- that have names in homage to the old plantation such as the Smithfield Horse Center (where many of the students in the department of animal and poultry sciences will visit during their degree program). If I were to start a dialogue with my students about why the center is named as such how does that benefit my goal of teaching students about the science of managing equines? I understand and applaud the goal of making students into better citizens of the world by facilitating discussion around the history of VT and embracing the discomfort of acknowledging the horrible legacy that plantations have on individuals of color especially in the realm of agricultural sciences- but I struggle with how can I meaningfully integrate these principles into my class. I know that I could always post a historical information page or document onto my canvas page and have students read it and discuss it but is that enough to truly prepare students to become citizens of the world? Will it mean anything to them?

I fully appreciate the values embodied in the theory of inclusive pedagogy, but I struggle to rationalize how to integrate them within the existing framework of a typical Animal Science curriculum. The more I learn about pedagogy and reflect on my own experiences the more I realize that I want to throw out the handbook when I reach the point that I am able to teach and ideally create my own classes.


University Mission Statements as Student Recruitment Tools

The state of Michigan has 93 colleges and universities [1]. The two most well-known are the 2 largest,  Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.  These two institutions are 2 of the 3 tier 1 research institutions according to the Carnegie classification of higher education and are typically the top choice of most high schoolers in the state of Michigan. After the big 2 comes the 3 Mid-Atlantic Conference universities all of which are R2 universities, Central, Eastern, and Western Michigan Universities. These 5 schools are the universities that most high schoolers strive to attend, unless they want to be an engineer- then they want Michigan Institute of Technology or Kettering University. Michigan also has many private- religious colleges and community colleges. Growing up gaining a bachelors degree was a given for most of my peers but the question was where you were going to go from what seemed like an overwhelming number of options. For me the question came down to Michigan State University or Central Michigan University- with my decision being swayed by Michigan State’s land grant/ College of Agriculture status. This blog prompt was the perfect excuse to revisit my top 2 university choices.

Central Michigan University (CMU) is a research institution with approximately 21,750 students in roughly 300 undergraduate, graduate, and online programs [2]. CMU has mission and vision statements along with a list of core values [3] 12/2/10 :

At Central Michigan University, we are a community committed to the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, discovery, and creativity. We provide student-centered education and foster personal and intellectual growth to prepare students for productive careers, meaningful lives, and responsible citizenship in a global society.   

In contrast Michigan State University (MSU) is a tier one research institution and a land grant university- well known for its agricultural programs. Approximately 49,000 students are enrolled as of fall 2019 in 200 different programs [4]. MSU has a general university mission statement and each program/office has its own mission statement subsidiary to the general one [5] 4/08/08:

As a public, research-intensive, land-grant university funded in part by the state of Michigan, our mission is to advance knowledge and transform lives by:

  • providing outstanding undergraduate, graduate, and professional education to promising, qualified students in order to prepare them to contribute fully to society as globally engaged citizen leaders

  • conducting research of the highest caliber that seeks to answer questions and create solutions in order to expand human understanding and make a positive difference, both locally and globally

  • advancing outreach, engagement, and economic development activities that are innovative, research-driven, and lead to a better quality of life for individuals and communities, at home and around the world

Comparing the two universities mission statements its seems that MSU is focused on what tangible things it will accomplish the students graduated and research published. In contrast CMU talks more about the development of the community and members it hopes to create. I also think its interesting that CMU has a vision statement and lists core values all of which connect back to how they strive to achieve their mission statement. MSU doesn’t have a vision statement or lists of values; however, the mission statements of specific colleges often have underlying vision and core value statements [6]. I wonder if because CMU is smaller than MSU it adopted more a more community focused statement to try to recruit students who want to have a more personal experience. To investigate this I looked at 2 other universities: Michigan Institute of Technology (MiTech) [7,8] and the University of Michigan (UofM) [9]. MiTech has mission, vision, and core values statements as well as a goals list similar to CMU. UofM has only a mission statement listed and the individual colleges have their own statements [10] again similar to MSU. UofM and MSU tend to rely more on their academic, research, and athletics prestige to recruit students but MiTech and CMU likely have to try other ways to recruit students.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_colleges_and_universities_in_Michigan
  2. https://www.cmich.edu/about/Pages/Quick-Facts.aspx
  3. https://www.cmich.edu/about/Pages/university_goals.aspx
  4. https://msu.edu/about/thisismsu/facts.php
  5. https://trustees.msu.edu/about/mission.html
  6. https://www.canr.msu.edu/about/mission-and-values
  7. https://www.mtu.edu/stratplan/
  8. https://www.mtu.edu/stratplan/values/
  9. https://president.umich.edu/about/mission/
  10. https://rackham.umich.edu/about/strategic-vision/

Semester in Retrospect

Three big takeaways from the semester:

      1. Comfort in conversations surrounding diversity and inclusion

      2. Expansion of ideas around identity

      3. Acceptance of my privileged status

Comfort in conversations surrounding diversity and inclusion

After spending the semester reading about and discussing a variety of issues surrounding diversity and inclusion with a roomful of mostly strangers I can confidently say that my comfort in engaging with such conversations has grown tremendously. At the same time as this class I have started in the Graduate Teaching Scholars program through CALS at VT and have spent the semester alongside this class talking about the challenges of university teaching today. Many times I would connect points from our diversity class discussion to my teaching seminar, and start similar discussions with those classmates. Getting practice doing this all semester has planted a desire to work such discussions into my coursework in the future.

Expansion of ideas around identity

Prior to this class I had not really thought about what makes up an identity. When asked to consider my identity I would list my race, gender, sexuality, maybe age. Dr. Grimes really pushed us to consider other aspects that make up your identity in ways akin to a background story. This really hit me when I started listening to Michigan radio’s new podcast Same Same Different, because at the beginning of the show the host invites all of the guests to take 10 seconds to list all of their different identities. The first couple are usually race and gender but they guests broaden to add things like: son, aunt, artist, dreamer, etc. I have come to realize that identity is more than what is skin deep, it is your history and because your identity is individual to you. This view was reinforced when we talked about intersectionality and stereotypes in class, because we discussed how individuals fit into multiple boxes and as a result have different experiences. I also feel that as result of this that one can always find commonalities with someone as long as they try (more of my thoughts). I appreciate the expansion to my idea of identity because now I can see ways to connect with those trying to divide us.

Acceptance of my privileged status

In addition to expanding my idea of identity, this semester I have leaned into the fact that I come from a very privileged background. In most aspects of my life I have dominant group identities: I am white, grew up in the upper middle class as a practicing Christian, I am well educated and so are my parents, I have no student loan debt, I own my own car, and I have traveled to different countries in the world. Before this class it was uncomfortable for me to accept that I have had a very privileged life. I used to justify my status by saying “I worked really hard for all of this” or “I earned this” which is true but I was also born into a life where I am encourage and supported to succeed. I felt it was degrading to accept the privilege that my identities afforded me but I have come to realize that it is actually enabling. It humbles me and reminds me to stop and reflect on what I am doing and how can I better use my identities to advocate for things that I believe in. As uncomfortable for me as it still is to accept that I am privileged, I appreciate this class for challenging me to embrace that side of my life and I hope to continue learning how to utilize this new identity as privileged.


This has been a busy semester for me, I have been a bit overextended with my research, teaching, and extracurricular activities. But as busy as it has been I have appreciated coming to the graduate school every Tuesday evening to spend immersed in discussions around identity and inclusion in the setting of higher education. I am not sad to see the semester end ( I really need a break) but I am sad to lose this set time to come and talk about these issues with all of you. I hope to see all of you around campus or run into you somewhere else in the future. Have one last chicken for the road.

Biased grant funding in science have career implications for minority scientists

The key to success in an academic career once hired is to win grant funding for your research. If you fail to win grant funding you will be unable to build your research program into a functioning lab that conducts research, trains graduate students, and publishes research results. These three critical functions are the basis of most institution promotion and tenure. Many universities place an increased emphasis on winning prestigious national grants. In biological sciences the most prestigious grants are awarded by the National institutes of Health (NIH).

It has been generally known that minority and women researchers have a lower success rate at getting grants than their white counterparts. In 2011 the NIH sponsored an in depth analysis of their data regarding granting records (Ginther, et al., 2011). The results confirmed that white scientists accumulate advantages throughout the granting process leading to higher success rates. It also found that black scientists in particular were less likely to receive funding from the NIH than other minorities in competition with white scientists with similar backgrounds. This gap was as large as 10 percentage points and was named the Ginther gap. After this publication the NIH has invested in trying to minimize the Ginther gap. In 2014, the NIH implemented a list of 13 recommendations to work on narrowing the gap in funding. While their efforts have led to the elimination of a racial funding gap for smaller awards the top tier funding that is essential for career success has only seen a narrowing of the racial funding gap (National Institutes of Health, 2019). In addition to the work reported by the NIH recent studies have come out in the past 2 years explaining reasons behind the Ginther gap.

The original publication about the Ginther gap posed some potential reasons for the gap in funding of black applicants. Black proposals may not be as strong a their white counterparts due to their greater likelihood of having mentors and training opportunities (Ginther et al., 2011). It is also possible that there are reviewers that may infer the race of the applicant and allow that to affect their assessment of the proposal either through malicious intent or implicit bias (Ginther et al., 2011). In 2018, a study on a similar set of grant data from the NIH reported a 7% gap and associated it to the biosketch of the applicant (Ginther et al., 2018). The biosketch is short CV/resume like document that highlights contributions to science. The component of the biosketch that was found to be the most detrimental is the publication history. The study found that the papers listed were in less prestigious journals and on average they listed fewer publications than their white contemporaries (Ginther et al., 2018). Considering that black applicants are applying for grants to fund research for future publications and that they are penalized for having lower numbers of publications it seems like the NIH is creating and perpetuating a system that traps black scientists and prevents them from succeeding in academia. Earlier this month a study was published explaining some of the remaining Ginther gap. This new study again using NIH grant data, found that topic choice was the second largest contributor to the gap, behind previous publications (Hoppe et al., 2019). The authors attribute the negative impact of topic choice to have more to do with NIH funding priorities over reviewer bias. The NIH promotes and funds a lot of basic science research and black scientists tend to propose more applied research (Hope et al., 2019). One article discussing the Hoppe et al., publication quoted Stephen Thomas at University of Maryland College Park saying

“As an African American who came up through the academic ranks and has the scars to prove it, I can understand why someone growing up among people who have been systematically discriminated against may be motivated to become a scientist because of a desire to address those problems… I’m not saying that doesn’t motivate white scientists, too. But I’ve seen it in many of my students (Mervis, 2019).”

I think this quote is a powerful example of a why that the current granting system is rigged against minority scientist success. Institutions and granting agencies have been working on minimizing the Ginther gap for funding of black scientists but it seems to me that the system will need to be structurally changed if the gap is to be completely eliminated because there are too many variables outside of the purview of a grant application that affects funding success. Black scientists are not the only minority group experiencing grant funding disparities as well but these are the most well researched. I strongly encourage everyone to take a moment to learn more about grant funding disparities and think about just how important grant funding is in the current academic evaluation system.


Ginther, D. K., Schaffer, W. T., Schnell, J., Masimore, B., Liu, F., Haak, L. L., & Kington, R. (2011). Race, ethnicity, and NIH research awards. Science, 333(6045), 1015-1019.

Ginther, D. K., Basner, J., Jensen, U., Schnell, J., Kington, R., & Schaffer, W. T. (2018). Publications as predictors of racial and ethnic differences in NIH research awards. PloS one, 13(11), e0205929.

Hoppe, T. A., Litovitz, A., Willis, K. A., Meseroll, R. A., Perkins, M. J., Hutchins, B. I., … & Santangelo, G. M. (2019). Topic choice contributes to the lower rate of NIH awards to African-American/black scientists. Science Advances, 5(10), eaaw7238.

Mervis, J. October 2019. Study identifies a key reason black scientists are less likely to receive NIH funding. Science Magazine. Retrieved on October 16th 2019 from https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/10/study-identifies-key-reason-black-scientists-are-less-likely-receive-nih-funding

National Institutes of Health. June 2019. Racial Disparities in NIH funding. Retrieved on October 16th 2019 from https://diversity.nih.gov/building-evidence/racial-disparities-nih-funding


My introductions to Intersectionality

I first learned about intersectionality while I was training to be a resident assistant at Michigan State University. We were talking about identities and assumptions and the leader of our training introduced the term. As soon as I heard it I felt it was the perfect way to think about identities. It reminds you that you are composed of multiple identities and that others are too. I also feel that the term reminds you that you can find connection with other people who may seem to be extremely different from you. I have moved away from residential life but I still think about intersectionality frequently.

Mainly I think about intersectionality with regard to its connection to life experiences. As a graduate teaching scholar I spend a lot of time reading about pedagogy and theories related to learning. I feel that good teaching requires the instructor to embrace intersectionality in their classroom. The revelation came to life for me when I learned about Paulo Freire’s The Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Critical Pedagogy. Critical pedagogy is a style of teaching that connects classroom material with student’s past life experiences (read more here). Most recommended teaching techniques in critical pedagogy revolve around discussion where students are asked to connect their own life experiences to the classroom. This teaching style makes the most sense for me because it is how I learn. I need to find a connection to the material- either to my own interests or with respect to something I can apply in the real world. For example the semester I realized I loved metabolism was when I was taking courses in biochemistry, nutrition, and toxicology. It was a really hard semester but half way through I had a light bulb moment where I realized the material I was learning about in each class was just a variation of what I learned in the others. I saw the relationship between the disciplines under the larger umbrella of studying metabolism.

Applying intersection in the future

With regards to intersectionality in the traditional sense- “the complex cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap or intersect” (Merriam-Webster, 2019), I don’t do a lot with that currently. I would like to though. Intersectionality is not a topic that gets brought up much in the world of science. It has a lot of potential too though- there is a lot of discrimination in the scientific world, both in the past and in the present:

Race- and gender-based bias persists in US science

(More) Bias in Science Hiring

Gender discrimination holding women back in veterinary practice

I think if we integrated more training in issues surround diversity and inclusion- such as intersectionality- to science graduate programs and professional programs (medical, veterinary, pharmacy, etc.) we would be able to cut down on discrimination present in science today.


Intersectionality. 2019. In Merriam-Webster.com Retrieved October 7, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intersectionality

Veterinarian Suicide- How we prepare pre-vet students in Animal Science

Veterinarian suicide has been in the news recently as the tragedy it rightfully is (Link); however, this is not a new problem. In 2018 the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) released a press release following a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) research article which found that suicide among veterinarians was higher than the general population during a time frame of 1979 to 2015 (Link)(American Veterinary Medical Association, 2018). There are many reasons being blamed for the higher rate of suicide- crippling debt, limited job prospects, difficult job tasks, unhappy customers, etc. But the fact remains that veterinarians are killing themselves at an alarming rate- one suicide is already too many regardless of the population.

This issue has hit close to home to me as many friends and my sister are in the veterinary medical profession, but also because 85 % of the incoming freshman in 2018 to the Animal and Poultry Science department at Virginia Tech declared their intended interest was pre-veterinary medicine (VT APSC, 2019). That means in an average class size of 200, there are 170 students that intend to enter the veterinary medicine field- this is normal in animal science departments across the country. As an educator and mentor to these students this terrifies me, we are training students to enter a career field that may drive them to suicide.

There are programs for veterinarians and vet students to be exposed to well being practices and companies that employee veterinarians have made financial commitments to teach coping skills with the goal to reduce suicide (American Veterinary Medical Association, n.d.). I wonder if the Animal Science discipline, of which veterinary medicine is one small part, has a responsibility to dealing with this crisis. Currently, before vet school little discussion about suicide is provided to students. Do Animal Science faculty members have a responsibility to talk with pre-vet students about suicide? Should undergraduate faculty members who served as mentors to these students have a responsibility to stay connected to these now veterinarians and continue mentoring? The crisis of veterinarian suicide is heartbreaking and horrible, I think that animal science departments should be considering their role in mitigating veterinarian suicide.


American Veterinary Medical Association. 2018, December 21.  AVMA combating suicide amongst veterinary professionals [press release]. Retrieved from https://www.avma.org/News/PressRoom/Pages/AVMA-combating-suicide-amongst-veterinary-professionals.aspx

American Veterinary Medical Association. n.d. Wellbeing and Peer Assistance. Retrieved from https://www.avma.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/PeerAndWellness/Pages/default.aspx

Virginia Tech department of Animal and Poultry Sciences. 2019. Animal and Poultry Sciences 2019 Departmental Review. Blacksburg, VA: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The personal impact of stereotype threat

As I mentioned in my introductions post I am hoping to become a faculty member in the future. I am aspiring to do this for a few reasons: 1- I love chicken intestines and that’s a little too weird outside of academia, 2- I am passionate about research and training students which is the hallmark of a faculty position but also because 3- I was told that I wouldn’t be able to get a faculty position. As my friends and family can attest I am quite stubborn so being told I can’t do something will motivate me quite extensively. Upon reflection one of the large reasons I decided to pursue a graduate degree was because a teacher of mine told me I wouldn’t be able to get one. I don’t know why they chose to say that to one of their students; but I have come to think that they said it because they probably didn’t see a female faculty member while attending university.

The lack of female representation in higher education has been seen as a problem for many years now- there are frequent articles about the issue of low female faculty numbers. Many universities have made strides in hiring female faculty members, over the last 10 years the number of female faculty in agriculture has increased from 12 to 23% (Cho, Chakraborty, and Rowland, 2017) but, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics 2016-2017 report only 33% of full professors are female which is below the national average (NCES, 2017). This issue has become more prominent in my life as I have progressed in obtaining degrees in animal science. At Michigan State University where I received my bachelors there were X number of faculty involved in research and teaching that was visible to undergraduate students. When I got my certificate in Poultry Science through the Midwest Poultry Consortium Center of Excellence scholarship program there were only two female faculty that taught in the program those numbers have shifted in more recent years but still remain less than half. In my master’s program at Auburn University there were only five female faculty members out of 14 total faculty positions in the poultry science department and only one of them was a full professor.

As a result of the lower number of female faculty members most of the mentors I’ve had have been men. There is nothing explicitly wrong with that except that in my case it is largely because I have not had the privilege of getting to work with many female faculty that could serve as a mentor to me. As a result I have worked to build peer networks with many of the female students I know in poultry science with the goal of providing support and sharing knowledge.

Another way this issue has impacted my life experience is the unspoken requirement that I excel at everything I do. I feel this pressure to be perfect because as soon as I screw up I feel that I will be dismissed as just another girl trying to do science. This sense creates an unnatural competitive environment that contaminates my experience working in the laboratory with my lab mates. I felt this most severely in my master’s position. When I started another female student was finishing her PhD- she was largely regarded as the most successful student to come out of that research program and had won many awards during her time there. The lab manager shared with me that I had been recommended to the research program as a younger version of that student and that another girl had just been asked to leave the program because she didn’t cut it. Knowing that made me feel an extreme sense of imposture syndrome and hypervigilant about everything that I did.(Insert citation for class paper) Looking back I see that this is a clear example of stereotype threat playing out. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to live up to the successful female in the lab and would be kicked out like the other girl before me. I started doubting my abilities and analyzing everything I did looking for differences that didn’t exist before.

Because of my negative experience I often think about what I would like to do differently when I (hopefully) have my own research program and am hiring students. I worry that I will pass on the same experience by inadvertently perpetuating the belief that any students I take on (especially female) will feel they have to be just like me. I worry about this for two reasons: mainly I don’t want any person to feel like I did during my master’s program but also stereotypes contribute to the continuation of the cycle of prejudice and discrimination that keeps society divided. (Check out this video by Khan academy that explains this much better than I could) So far my worrying has not been very productive and I have not come up with any solid suggestions for how to combat the stereotype threat I feel. I did appreciate that the article Dr. Grimes shared in the Week 5 module: Stereotype threat in work and schools: putting science into practice (Schamder and Hall, 2014). That article mentioned that those at risk of stereotype threat should understand the anxiety that they may feel as a result of stereotypes and to spend time reflecting on their values and purpose. I am a large proponent of self-reflection and encourage everyone to dedicate time to reflecting on their goals and experiences. I will definitely strive to pass this lesson on to any future students of mine.


               Cho, A., D. Chakraborty, and D. Rowland. 2017. Gender representation in faculty and leadership at land grant and research institutions. Agron. J. 109:14-22.

National Center for Education Statistics [NCES]. 2017. Characteristics of Postsecondary Faculty. Figure 2. Chapter: 4/Postsecondary Education Section: Postsecondary Environments and Characteristics: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/pdf/coe_csc.pdf

Schamder, T. and W.M. Hall. 2014. Stereotype threat in work and schools: putting science into practice. Policy insights from the behavioral and brain sciences. 1:30-37.

If anyone has any similar experiences or ideas on how to prevent this from happening to others please share it with me. Thank you for reading enjoy this sassy chick pic as a break from the seriousness.



My name is Sara Cloft and I use she/her pronouns. At Virginia Tech I am a PhD student in the department of Animal and Poultry Sciences. I am also a Graduate Teaching Scholar in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences where I work with the introductory laboratory class in the APSC department. Additionally, I serve as the Associate Chair for the Graduate Honor System. After graduation (and probably a post-doc or two if I’m being realistic), I hope to work as a professor at a land grant university(and get tenure) and be able to continue following my intellectual curiosities and inspire the next generation of animal (& hopefully poultry) scientists.

I am very passionate about my research especially on days that I get to spend time cuddling cute chicks and poults. My research focuses on poultry intestinal development and maturation using in-ovo feeding techniques (see the image below). This research topic is prefect for me because I think poultry (chickens & turkeys primarily) are awesome and I absolutely love intestines! Yes, I fully understand that is a strange thing to love, but consider the following: they are absolutely essential to life through their role in digestion and metabolism but also intestines are the largest mucosal immune surface within the body responsible for maintaining a healthy microbiome and protecting us from harmful bacteria. Additionally, the alimentary canal (all parts of the body that food passes through) is responsible for the enjoyment that comes from food and is the site of many of the worst chronic illnesses. In chickens there are even more fascinating elements that will probably keep me interested for the rest of my life, but I digress.

Continue reading “Introductions”