Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science & Mathematics

Department of Biological Sciences: Diversity Action Plan

Department of Biological Sciences Diversity Action Committee Members:
Roland P. Roberts; A. Mickey Dehn; Larry Wimmers; Meghan May; Petra Tsuji

Department of Biological Sciences Diversity Statement:

The Department of Biological Sciences values diversity and fosters a climate that is grounded in respect and inclusion, enriches the educational experience of students, supports positive workplace environments, promotes excellence, and cultivates intellectual and personal growth.

Diversity is a pluralistic term and emphasizes different areas. Hence, the department adopts the definition of diversity as outlined by the FCSM to include recruitment and retention of students, staff, and faculty of various age, career experience, nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, philosophy and viewpoint, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, socioeconomic status, and ability status. Also, the department strives to establish a climate that will allow for the success of all individuals. Addressing different dimensions in this manner ensures perennial attention to diversity challenges in post-secondary education.

Department of Biological Sciences Diversity Action Committee Mission Statement:

The Department of Biological Sciences, in accordance with the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics (FCSM) and the Towson University Strategic Plan, believes that we must support initiatives that promote diversity among department faculty, staff and students while continuing to meet the mission of the department and university. To fulfill that vision, we are committed to increasing the quality and diversity of our students, faculty and staff while increasing retention, curriculum initiatives, scholarship and research. In accordance with the University’s Diversity Action Plan, this document describes the Department’s Diversity Objectives, Action Steps, Assessment and Timeframes for Evaluation.

Defining Diversity

Diversity is a pluralistic term and emphasizes different areas. Hence, the department adopts the definition of diversity as outlined by the FCSM to include recruitment and retention of students, staff and faculty of various age, career experiences, nationality, philosophies and viewpoints, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, gender and gender expression, disabilities and race. Also, the department strives to establishment a climate that will allow for the success of these individuals. Addressing different dimensions of diversity in this manner ensures that Towson University, FCSM, and specifically the Department of Biological Sciences attend to a perennial diversity challenge in post-secondary education.

Ethnicity Statistics

According to statistical information of the Maryland 2009 US Census Bureau, approximately 29.7% of the state's population is African-American and 7.2% is Hispanic. The table below provides population estimates for racial groups at the national, state, university, college and departmental levels.




Towson University (Fall 2010 Undergrad)
FCSM Majors Fall 2010
Biology Majors Fall 2011
Maryland*/Public School
Students National*
White persons not Hispanic
56.8%/ 45.5%
African Americans
American Indian and Alaska Native persons
Asian persons
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
0.1%/with above
Persons reporting two or more races
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin
Other (includes foreign)

Department of Biological Sciences: Climate (Roberts)

Action Steps Assessment and Performance Measures Responsible Person(s) Timeframe
Formalize the department’s commitment to diversity by appointing Diversity Coordinator (DC) • Formalize the appointment through discussion involving all faculty and staff. Chair Spring 2012
Develop support structures for new faculty as a continuation of the FCSM faculty orientation program

• Appoint department representative to FCSM faculty orientation committee.

• Develop departmental support program for pre-tenure faculty highlighting the strengths of the current mentoring system.



Chair P&T committee

Spring 2012
Develop a departmental diversity statement and post on the department website • The department’s commitment to diversity illustrated through a statement based on the college and university statement. Department’s DC Spring 2012


FCSM Faculty Recruitment (Roberts)

Action Steps Assessment and Performance Measures Responsible Person Timeframe
Ensure diverse composition of search committees. Committee composition should be such that all candidates are comfortable and treated equally

• Departmental records of search committee composition

• Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity Records

Department Chair

Search Committee Chair

All searches beginning spring 2012
Ensure dissemination of advertisements to diverse outlets

• Departmental records for each search

• Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity Records

Search Committee chairs All searches beginning spring 2012
Develop a list of outlets for recruiting underrepresented groups to be made available to search committee chairs • Departmental records. Publication on departmental website Chair, Diversity coordinator By end of fall 2011


FCSM Faculty Retention (Roberts)

Action Steps Assessment and Performance Measures

Responsible Person Timeframe

Develop strategy for the retention of faculty from underrepresented groups

Strengthen the mentoring program and include specifics related to underrepresented faculty


Obtain data on the recruitment and retention of female faculty for the last 5 years

• Presentation of detailed plan to the department


• Present a plan for selecting mentors with specifics on how the mentoring plan will help faculty prepare for annual/3rd year/tenure review/promotion to full professor

• Evaluate department actions to improve retention of female faculty based on available data

Chair, Diversity coordinator End of 2011-12 academic year?
Evaluate faculty review results to identify faculty member’s strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan to address issues before the next review • Departmental PT & R records. Measure success of plan through evaluation of following year’s merit evaluations Faculty member and mentor,
Department Chair/P & T Chair

FCSM Faculty Professional Development

Action steps Assessment and performance measures Responsible person Timeframe
Establish a system to evaluate the effectiveness of the department’s diversity plan • Evaluate departmental records for evidence of implementation Diversity coordinator Ongoing
Have each instructor add the department’s diversity statement to their syllabi • Evaluate submitted syllabi for statement during annual merit evaluations Diversity coordinator 6/2012
Provide information on department’s webpage regarding procedure for handling complaints about diversity issues in the department • Evaluate website for specifics of procedure Chair department 09/2012


Department of Biological Sciences Climate (Dehn)

Action Steps Assessment and Performance Measures Responsible Person(s) Timeframe

Annual recognition (Fall Forum) for the department exhibiting best practices in support of diversity initiatives.

Strive to be FCSM department that best implementation of diversity initiatives    
Acknowledge the importance of diversity and the barriers facing minorities in science by hosting an annual Diversity Panel in which faculty, students, and alumni talk about their challenges and successes as minorities in science.

Collect data on the number of participants and attendees.

Develop a survey tool for attendees to assess if their awareness and attitudes towards diversity issues changed as a result of attending the Diversity Panel.



Department of Biological Sciences Student Retention (Dehn)

Action Steps Assessment and Performance Measures Responsible Person(s) Timeframe

Assist faculty in becoming aware of diversity issues in the classroom.

Develop best practices documents for faculty to use as reference. (See Addendum 1).

Develop a survey tool to be administered to randomly selected classes at the end of each semester to assess if students believe that faculty are applying best practices in the classroom.    

Assist faculty with ways to introduce diversity into course content.

Develop diversity content inclusiveness documents for faculty to use as reference. (See Addendum 2).

Develop a survey tool to be administered to faculty to assess their inclusion of diversity topics into course content.    
Foster student-driven advocacy for minorities in science through ongoing mentoring of the Women in Science and Minorities in STEM groups, as well as encouraging the establishment of a chapter of STEM (see Addendum 3). Quantify student participation in these groups and publicize their activities on the FCSM and Dept. of Biological Sciences websites and bulletin boards.    

Appendix 1: Faculty (working document)

The department can and should pay attention to issues of equity, inclusion and the representation of women and people of color in its applicant pools. The Dean’s office and the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity can be invaluable resources in achieving these goals. Throughout this document we use the term ‘underrepresented’ to refer to groups of individuals whose presence on the faculty are below the proportions that would be expected given their presence in the available pool.

Faculty: Recruitment, Retention and Professional Development

Current Strategies:

Departmental mentoring program: The mentoring program within the department should serve all new faculty and be especially helpful to faculty from underrepresented groups.

Start up for tenure track faculty: Start up presently provided to faculty may be used as incentive to attract a diverse pool of candidate. However, enhanced start up packages might be used to attract outstanding individuals who would potentially add diversity to the department.

Provision of research space: Along with funds for research initiation, the department provides research space to faculty for whom research productivity is an expectation. Improvement on research space or preparation of rooms prior to the arrival of individuals might serve as a recruitment tool.

Common equipment availability: The department can promote its research strengths and present and past successful collaborative efforts among its faculty. This will provide potential faculty members with an idea of how that may fit into the established structure within the department. Improvement of infrastructure, availability of common equipment, maintenance of equipment and having support staff may make this more sellable.

Placement of Job Description: The position description should be advertised to ensure accessibility to candidates from diverse backgrounds. In addition to Science and the Chronicle of Higher Education, effort should be made to publicize positions in other sources that target individuals from underrepresented groups. These might include minority professional societies, HBCU’s that graduate individuals with the expertise being sought among others.

Future Actions:
Improve research support (financial, travel, resources to recruit graduate research assistants) for initial faculty recruitment and subsequent retention.

Create an environment that is supportive and prevents isolation. Such an environment will help in the retention of all faculty. For minority faculty, assistance with membership to discipline-specific organizations would foster professional development. Within the department the assigned mentor and department chair can be part of the framework that provides a sense of inclusion. A supportive environment is critical in faculty recruitment and retention. Engage with underrepresented faculty in such a way to help build a sense of belonging.

Have a process in place through collaboration with the Dean, Provost and other departments that would facilitate employment of spouses when that is deemed necessary for attracting outstanding minority faculty.

Provide financial support for teaching activities and inform new faculty of strategies that are in place to reduce administrative burden on faculty including flexibility in workload and childcare options.

Make faculty diversity initiatives a department priority that is address at the departmental retreat and demonstrate the department’s commitment to diversity through the display of a diversity statement on the website.

Replacement costs are much greater than retention costs, and yet continuing budgets for faculty retention packages are lacking. Support the establishment of such a program targeting underrepresented groups. The expenditure on a new hire, following the loss of a faculty of color (for whatever reason) is much higher that the cost of providing research assistance, laboratory renovations, travel funds, and/or a faculty fellowship to help retain a current faculty member.

Appendix 2: Students

Addendum 1 – working document

Use language in the classroom that is inclusive to all ethnicities, nationalities, gender identities, sexualities, religions, and abilities.

Maintain discretion when administering exams/assignments to students with special accommodations.

Respect a student’s request to be referred to by their chosen name and “PGP”, or preferred gender pronoun. This may be “he/him”, “she/her”, or even “they/them”. Never use the word “it” when referring to a person as this is a pronoun designated for non-persons and is, as such, dehumanizing.

“Transgender”, “gender non-conforming”, and sometimes “genderqueer” are terms generally preferred over “transsexual” or “cross-dresser”.

Avoid dividing the class into groups based on gender. This can cause a great deal of anxiety and even danger for students who do not prescribe to a rigid gender binary system.

Addendum 2 – working document

Incorporate gender diversity found in the natural world into your curriculum:

E.g. There are many species of sex-changing fishes. This can easily be approached from ecological, behavioral, and physiological perspectives.

E.g. Many organisms have more than two genetic sexes.

When constructing critical thinking items involving a description of people, instead of always using “Mr. Smith …”, mix in other names to better reflect our diverse student population.

E.g. Jose recently saw his doctor after experiencing several bouts of wheezing, caused by constriction of smooth muscles around the bronchi. She prescribed an albuterol inhaler to treat the wheezing. Albuterol most likely acts as a(n):
A) cholinergic receptor antagonist.
B) β2-adrenergic agonist.
C) nicotinic receptor agonist.
D) α-adrenergic agonist.

E.g. Many genetics problems read something like this:
“John and Sue got married and had a baby. The baby had blue eyes. Sue is homogenous recessive for blue eyes. John is...”

Mix it up! Married heterosexual people are not the only ones that have babies. Incorporate other examples that reflect the diversity of family types in our society, e.g. single parents, adoptions, same-sex parents with a sperm or egg donor, etc…

Point out the accomplishments of scientists of minority groups.

Addendum 3 – working document

( oSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), is a national organization whose mission is to:
o Provide services and support for students of sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Create a dynamic network between students and professionals in industry and academia.
o Provide education, outreach, and professional resources to high school students.
o Actively recruit and address the needs of diverse groups within the LGBTA community, inclusive of those who are historically underrepresented with regards to gender and ethnic background.

Department of Biological Sciences
Smith Hall, Room 341 (map)
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Phone: 410-704-3042
Fax: 410-704-2405



View the Fisher
College of Science and
Mathematics Diversity
Action Plan here.




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