Geena Davis: Standing Up for Gender & STEM
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Geena Davis collage of pictures including the Diversity in STEAM Magazine Cover

By Sarah Mosqueda

Geena Davis has played several complex characters, but the actress, gender and STEM advocate, producer and model is hesitant to call them role models.

For example, take Thelma Dickinson from the iconic 1991 movie, Thelma & Louise. She was characterized as the ditzy wife of an insensitive, bullying, unfaithful carpet salesman.

But it wasn’t until after the Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning actress portrayed this role that she began to consider how women in the audience might feel about it. She also realized the limited opportunities women have to feel empowered or excited about female characters.

And when Davis became a mother, that realization hit hard.

‘If she can see it, she can be it.’

“When my daughter was a toddler, I began watching children’s TV with her, and I was stunned to notice what seemed to be a huge gender disparity in entertainment made for young kids,” says Davis, “It occurred to me that this was a very unhealthy message to send to kids in the 21st century, which led me to create the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.”

Motivated by these imbalances, Davis founded her non-profit research organization in 2004. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (GDIGM) researches gender representation in media and advocates for equal representation of women. The organization works collaboratively within the entertainment industry, thanks in large part to Davis’ connections, and aims to create gender balance, foster inclusion and reduce negative stereotyping in family entertainment media.

Currently headquartered in Los Angeles, GDIGM has collected the largest body of research on gender prevalence in family entertainment, with children’s entertainment being a primary focus.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 03: Actor Geena Davis speaks during The Power Of Inclusion Summit 2019 at Aotea Centre. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images for New Zealand Film Commission)

“My Institute has conducted numerous studies over the years showing that diverse and high-quality portrayals of women and girls are quite simply missing from children’s media,” Davis says.

Youth ages 8-18-years-old are engaging with media more than 7 hours a day, according to GDIGM. And although women and girls are 51 percent of the population, entertainment media does a poor job of reflecting that with the ratio of approximately 3:1 male to female characters.

“This has a real impact on young viewers’ ideas about themselves and the occupations they pursue,” Davis says. Disparities are most apparent in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM fields), where only one-quarter of scientists and engineers in the United States are female.

According to Davis, media plays a contributing role to the dismal numbers. She points to a 2012 GDIGM study that found low representation of female STEM characters. The study analyzed occupations in children’s media and found that, for every 15 male characters shown in STEM jobs, there was only one female character portrayed in a STEM profession.

“STEM characters were rarely featured in leading roles, and when they were, men STEM characters were moderately (but significantly) more likely than women STEM characters to be leads,” says Davis. However, when girls do see women in STEM in media, it has a significant impact.

In a 2018 study titled, “The Scully Effect,” GDIGM looked at the influence of “The X-Files’” protagonist Dana Scully on girls and women entering the STEM field.

“Nearly two-thirds of women working in STEM today say that Scully served as their personal role model and increased their confidence to excel in a male-dominated profession,” Davis says, “In other words, as we say, ‘If she can see it, she can be it.’”

An Actress & Advocate
Born Virginia Elizabeth Davis in Wareham, Mass., Davis’ mother, a teacher’s assistant, and her father, a civil engineer and church deacon, were both from small towns in Vermont. Davis also has an older brother named Danforth “Dan.”

At an early age, she became interested in music. Davis learned piano and the flute and played organ well enough as a teenager to serve as an organist at her Congregationalist church in Wareham. She went on to attend Wareham High School and was an exchange student in Sandiviken, Sweden, becoming fluent in Swedish.

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis taking a Polaroid of themselves in a scene from the film ‘Thelma & Louise’, 1991. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

It’s been said that she actually adopted the nickname, Geena, after seeing shows with the characters Cheburashka and Gena the Crocodile, which aired as a children’s segment in a national television show in Sweden in the late 1970s.

Davis attended New England College before earning her bachelor’s degree in drama from Boston University in 1979. Following her education, she served as a window mannequin for clothing retailer Ann Taylor until signing with New York’s Zoli modeling agency.

Davis made her acting debut in the 1982 film, Tootsie. In 1986, she starred in the iconic thriller, The Fly, which proved to be one of her first box office hits. While the fantasy comedy, Bettlejuice, brought her to international acclaim, it was the drama, The Accidental Tourist, in 1988 that earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She cemented her leading actress status with her performance in Thelma & Louise, receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Later, she starred in A League of Their Own in 1992, which provide to be a critical and box office success, earning her a Golden Globe Award nomination.

Through her work with the Geena Davis Institute and focus on gender in the media, Davis has launched the annual Bentonville Film Festival and executive produced the documentary, This Changes Everything, in 2018. She also received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for all she has done to fight gender bias on and off the screen in Hollywood.

Changing Tomorrow — Today
While areas of gross gender inequality remain, Davis insists the one category where the underrepresentation of women can be fixed overnight is on screen. “The very next project somebody makes, the next movie, TV show, can be gender-balanced,” she says. Which is why the purpose of the research done by GDIGM is not to educate the public, but to take the data directly to the creators of children’s media and share it in a private, collegial way. Since its inspection, GDIGM has prompted a significant change in messaging at major networks and studios. The institute has conducted custom educational workshops and presentations for industry leaders, like the Cartoon Network, CBS, DreamWorks, FOX Feature Animation, PBS, Sesame Workshop, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. The GDIGM website (seejane.org) sites its influence over gender portrayal in content like Inside Out, Hotel Transylvania, Monsters University, The Dark Crystal and DocMcStuffins.

“We are seeing a concerted effort on the part of content creators to strive for greater diversity, equity and inclusion in their stories,” Davis says, “They have embraced our data, and are applying it along with our research tools.”

Geena Davis and team at screening of “Mission Unstoppable.” Photo by Geena Davis Institute

In addition to getting data into the hands of content creators, Davis has also taken the initiative to create content herself. Davis is the Executive Producer of Mission Unstoppable on CBS. The educational television series from Litton Entertainment is hosted by Miranda Cosgrove and centers on diverse, female STEM professionals. Yet, the engagement of the show goes beyond TV. It’s a social media movement, meeting young girls in the places they’re most drawn to, such as Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Twitch. The content ranges from meet and greets with women role models in STEM, to how scientists use hormones to be able to tell if someone is in love.

Davis says the visibility of unique, intersectional, female characters in entertainment and media is essential to challenging negative stereotypes.

“That’s why shows like Mission Unstoppable are so important,” Davis says, “Increasing media depictions of women in STEM is easy to do, and provides a big bang for the buck.”

And it would seem critics agree. Mission Unstoppable was nominated for two Daytime Emmys in 2020, including outstanding entertainment/educational series.

Davis has also helped champion an AI called, “GD-IQ: Spellcheck for Bias,” that leverages patented learning technology to analyze scripts for unconscious bias and discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities.

“We launched our first ML tool in 2015, GD-IQ, which uses ML along with Human Expert coding,” Davis says, “Which has now gone well beyond just measuring gender which has been used to analyze video for ads, movies and TV shows.”

Davis says her team worked to develop another tool that could be used in the pre-production phase of content development in order to review and improve diversity and inclusion before content went into casting and production.

“This is how Spellcheck for Bias was developed and built utilizing some of USC Viterbi’s patented text IP, which we are currently using to analyze text in scripts, books etc.,” she says, “We’re already testing it with major studios like The Walt Disney company and NBC Universal.”

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 22: (L-R) Dr. Erin Macdonald, Geena Davis and Mayim Bialik speak onstage during ‘The Scully Effect – I Want to Believe in STEM’ panel at AT&T SHAPE at Warner Bros. Studios. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for AT&T)

The new tool can rapidly analyze a script to determine the ratio of male and female characters and how accurately they represent the real population at large. The technology also can discern the numbers of characters who are people of color, LGBTQI, possess disabilities or belong to other groups typically underrepresented in mainstream media.

In the decade since she started GDIGM, Davis has used her influence to move the needle. And slowly but surely, the needle has moved.

In family films, the percentage of lead characters who are female has doubled from 2007 (24 percent) to 2019 (48 percent) and the percentage of leading female characters in children’s television was 42 percent in 2008; that rose to 52 percent by 2018.

“We are beyond thrilled to see one of the most important goals we set [on-screen parity] has been reached during the time we’ve been advocating for it,” Davis says.

Though she is quick to add there is still work to be done.

The Road Ahead…Doing Your Part
“When it comes to intersectionality of gender and the other dimensions, we measure such as race, LGBTQ+, age, abilities, body type…those haven’t budged yet, but we’re very confident that on-screen representation will improve significantly within the next 5 years.”

BENTONVILLE, ARKANSAS – MAY 07: Geena Davis speaks at the Bentonville Film Fest at the Filmmakers retreat. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Bentonville Film Festival)

As a viewer, Davis says there is actually a lot you can do to encourage programming that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.
“Viewers can use the power of their voice via social media to support and challenge what they see in media and entertainment,” says Davis, “Secondly, they can choose what they decide to watch and view with their families. Third, consumers who have children, can use their media consumption as a way to engage in a dialogue with their children around what messages they are receiving and guide them on how to interpret it.”

At the very least, Davis says we can think critically about the content we consume.

“I encourage you to think like a content creator and explore what a gender review might look like on the show you just viewed… Could a female portray a male character?” she asks, “Was the language used by girls equally empowering to that of male characters? Did the portrayal of characters bolster or shatter stereotypes?”

When we take the time to ask these questions, we will see the value of parity in programming.

“Together, we can introduce positive role models onscreen that our children can learn from and emulate in real life,” Davis says.

So, while Geena Davis’ characters are not all role models, as a champion for gender diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM-related industries, she certainly is.

First Latina to go to space announces bilingual STEAM board book series
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Dr Ellen ochoa smiling and posing in front of a gray background for the camera. She is wearing a blue button up. Ochoa is writing a STEAM board book series

By The Downey Patriot

Lil’ Libros Publishing has acquired world rights to a bilingual five-board book STEAM series, Dr. Ochoa’s Stellar World, researched and written by Dr. Ellen Ochoa, American engineer who became the first Latina woman to go to space.

Inspired by her experiences as a NASA astronaut, Dr. Ochoa’s books will celebrate the joy of scientific curiosity, the fundamentals of STEAM topics, and the American Latino experience for the youngest of readers.

“I wish I had known when I was little that science [or STEAM] is all about curiosity and creativity,” said Dr. Ochoa. “Those skills come naturally to young kids, and I hope this series engages kids and parents alike, in both English and Spanish, about STEAM concepts and excites them about exploring the world they inhabit.”

“We are excited to work alongside Dr. Ochoa to help create an environment where our littlest readers are introduced to STEAM concepts confidently and in two languages,” said Patty Rodriguez, publisher at Lil’ Libros. “Becoming a scientist is no longer just a dream for our children, it is a possibility and Dr. Ellen Ochoa is an example of that.”

“It is an honor to welcome Dr. Ellen Ochoa to the Lil’ Libros family. Bringing bilingual STEAM topics to children will open a world of possibilities,” added Ariana Stein, Lil’ Libros co-founder. “We are confident that Dr. Ochoa’s Stellar World will inspire curiosity and leave a lasting impact on children.”

Publication for the first book, Dr. Ochoa’s Stellar World: We Are All Scientists, is set for August 30, 2022.

Lil’ Libros is a bilingual children’s book publisher based out of Los Angeles. In a world lacking bilingual books for children, two best friends-turned-mothers – Patty Rodriguez, of Downey, and Ariana Stein – began their mission to celebrate the duality of the American Latino experience through picture board books and now hardcovers.

Click here to read the full article on The Downey Patriot.

NASA Invites Media to Launch of New Mega-Moon Rocket and Spacecraft
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Mega Moon Mission. An aerial view of Launch Complex 39B with Exploration Ground Systems’ mobile launcher for the Artemis 1 mission on the pad. The mobile launcher, atop crawler-transporter 2, made its final solo trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building on June 27, 2019, and arrived on the surface of pad B on June 28, 2019, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mobile launcher will remain at the pad over the summer, undergoing final testing and checkouts. Its next roll to the pad will be with the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft in preparation for the launch of Artemis 1.

By NASA

Media accreditation is now open for launch and prelaunch activities related to NASA’s Artemis I mission, the first mission in exploration systems built for crew that will travel around the Moon since Apollo. Approximately a week’s worth of events will lead up to the launch of the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, targeted for no earlier than March 2022 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The uncrewed Artemis I mission will launch from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39B and is the first integrated flight test of NASA’s Artemis deep space exploration systems. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, the mission will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration and demonstrate NASA’s commitment and capability to establish a long-term presence at the Moon and beyond.

NASA will set an official target launch date after a successful wet dress rehearsal test – one of the final tests before launch involving fuel loaded into the rocket – currently planned for late February.

U.S. media must apply by 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7, and international media without U.S. citizenship must apply by 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31. A copy of NASA’s media accreditation policy is online.

The agency continues to monitor developments related to the coronavirus pandemic, and Kennedy will grant access to only a limited number of media to protect the health and safety of media and employees. Due to COVID-19 safety restrictions at Kennedy, international media coming from overseas must follow quarantine requirements.

NASA will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the agency’s chief health and medical officer and will immediately communicate any updates that may affect media access for this launch.

Media who would like to bring large vehicles (satellite trucks, microwave trucks, etc.) or any manner of infrastructure (scaffolding, stages, etc.) must notify the Kennedy media team by filling out a forthcoming survey. The survey will be distributed to media once the accreditation window for this launch has closed.

All parties requesting to bring stages, scaffolding, or raised platforms will be required to submit plans, including access limitations/controls, height/width/length, configuration, capacity, and load ratings of the elevated structure and any training, inspection, or other pertinent requirements.

Click here to read the full article on NASA.

Letter From the Editor — The Power of Act II
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Leland Melvin Cover

By Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

The beauty of the STEAM fields is that they represent industries where growth and change are constant. STEAM is all about repurposing and redefining both ourselves and the world around us for a better tomorrow.

Oftentimes, the best part of the story comes in the second act.

For American engineer and STEAM advocate Leland D. Melvin, this couldn’t be truer. Melvin was a star on his high school and collegiate football teams before beating the odds to join the NFL as a member of both the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions.

However, he would beat the odds again after a career-ending injury would catapult him into his Act II as an astronaut and Associate Administrator for Education for NASA.

Now, he’s an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the STEAM fields. “The biggest part of succeeding in a NASA culture is to be a team member,” he said. “Just like sports and mathematics. That’s why diversity is so important.”

Learn more about Leland Melvin’s story on page 26.

If you’re thinking about your own second act, check out which careers are in high demand this year on page 38.

Tawanah Reeves-Ligon
Tawanah Reeves-Ligon, Editor Diversity in STEAM Magazine

Trying to grow or save your small business post-pandemic? Learn the five business strategies that can help you overcome COVID-19 on page 66.

If the next part of your story is getting more education, find the best STEAM scholarships on page 80.

Finally, check out how researchers are planning to combat climate change by giving critically endangered and extinct animals (like the Woolly Mammoth!) a second chance in the wild on page 16.

It’s rare to get things perfectly right the first time around. At Diversity in STEAM, we encourage you to continue pressing forward, so that your next act is always your best act.

A dinosaur embryo has been found inside a fossilized egg. Here’s what that means.
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dinosaur embryo Reconstruction of a close-to-hatching oviraptorosaur egg.

BY Caitlin O’Kane, CBS News

A well-preserved dinosaur embryo has been found inside a fossilized egg. The fossilized dinosaur embryo came from Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province in southern China and was acquired by researchers in 2000.

Researchers at Yingliang Group, a company that mines stones, suspected it contained egg fossils, but put it in storage for 10 years, according to a news release. When construction began on Yingliang Stone Natural History Museum, boxes of unearthed fossils were sorted through.

“Museum staff identified them as dinosaur eggs and saw some bones on the broken cross section of one of the eggs,” Lida Xing of China University of Geosciences, Beijing, said in a news release. A embryo was found hidden within, which they named “Baby Yingliang.”

The embryo is that of the bird-like oviraptorosaurs, part of the theropod group. Theropod means “beast foot,” but theropod feet usually resembled those of birds. Birds are descended from one lineage of small theropods.

In studying the embryo, researchers found the dinosaur took on a distinctive tucking posture before hatching, which had been considered unique to birds. The study is published in the iScience journal.

Researchers say this behavior may have evolved through non-avian theropods. “Most known non-avian dinosaur embryos are incomplete with skeletons disarticulated,” said Waisum Maof the University of Birmingham, U.K. “We were surprised to see this embryo beautifully preserved inside a dinosaur egg, lying in a bird-like posture. This posture had not been recognized in non-avian dinosaurs before.”

While fossilized dinosaur eggs have been found during the last 100 years, discovering a well-preserved embryo is very rare, the researchers said in the release.

The embryo’s posture was not previously seen in non-avian dinosaur, which is “especially notable because it’s reminiscent of a late-stage modern bird embryo.”

Click here to read the full article on CBS News.

A viral image of a Black fetus is highlighting the need for diversity in medical illustrations
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medical illustration of a Black fetus in the womb.

By Harmeet Kaur, CNN

At first glance, the image looks like a standard drawing that could easily be found in the pages of a medical textbook or on the walls of a doctor’s office.

But what sets apart the illustration of a fetus in the womb that recently captured the attention of the internet is a simple, yet crucial, detail: its darker skin tone.

The image, created by Nigerian medical student and illustrator Chidiebere Ibe, struck a chord with countless people on social media, many of whom said that they had never seen a Black fetus or a Black pregnant woman depicted before. It also brought attention to a larger issue at hand: A lack of diversity in medical illustrations.

(While most fetuses are red in color — newborns come out dark pink or red and only gradually develop the skin tone they will have for life — the medical illustration is intended to represent patients who aren’t used to seeing their skin tones in such images.)

Ibe said in an interview with HuffPost UK that he didn’t expect to receive such an overwhelming response — his fetus illustration was one of many such images he’s created as a medical illustrator, most of which depict Black skin tones. But it underscored the importance of a mission he’s long been committed to.
“The whole purpose was to keep talking about what I’m passionate about — equity in healthcare — and also to show the beauty of Black people,” he told the publication. “We don’t only need more representation like this — we need more people willing to create representation like this.”

CNN reached out to Ibe for comment, but he did not expand on the topic further.
Ni-Ka Ford, diversity committee chair for the Association of Medical Illustrators, said that the organization was grateful for Ibe’s illustration.
“Along with the importance of representation of Black and Brown bodies in medical illustration, his illustration also serves to combat another major flaw in the medical system, that being the staggering disproportionate maternal mortality rate of Black women in this country,” she wrote in an email to CNN.

What medical illustration is
Medical illustrations have been used for thousands of years to record and communicate procedures, pathologies and other facets of medical knowledge, from the ancient Egyptians to Leonardo da Vinci. Science and art are combined to translate complex information into visuals that can communicate concepts to students, practitioners and the public. These images are used not just in textbooks and scientific journals, but also films, presentations and other mediums.

There are fewer than 2,000 trained medical illustrators in the world, according to the Association of Medical Illustrators. With only a handful of accredited medical illustration programs in North America, which tend to be expensive and admit few students, the field has historically been dominated by people who are White and male — which, in turn, means the bodies depicted have usually been so, too.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Leland Melvin’s Making Space Inclusive
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featured cover story Leland Melvin is pictured in a collage of photos with crewmembers and reading books to children

Interview and Story By Brady Rhoades

On a day he’ll never forget, astronaut Leland Melvin saw 24 sunsets in 24 hours. He flew over his hometown of Lynchburg, Va., and thought of his family, his modest and healthy upbringing; seven minutes later he was over Paris.

It wasn’t lost on him that he was African-American and his crew members included women, Russians, people from all walks of life.

“It made me contemplate my existence,” he said. “My faith was stronger, more magnified, and doing it with people we used to fight against.”

An Unusual Route
Melvin, 57, and, in his post-astronaut career, a prominent advocate for STEAM, did not take the usual route to space. He was a wide receiver in the NFL, but he suffered a career-ending injury and Act II of a remarkable life journey was on.

Since childhood, he’d been interested in engineering, though he was known for his exploits on the gridiron. He starred at his high school, at University of Richmond and, in his short stint in the pros, for the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

Along the way, he earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in materials science engineering.

It’s been said that luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.

Melvin’s post-NFL opportunity came at a job fair. A recruiter tracked him down and told him, “You’re coming to work at NASA.”

A Team Player

This was in the 1980s. Melvin said his mental image of NASA involved white men with crew cuts. He wasn’t far off. “Historically, NASA has been myopically focused on a certain mindset,” he said. He became part of a sea-change in the world’s most esteemed space organization.

“The biggest part of succeeding in a NASA culture is to be a team member,” he said. “Just like sports and mathematics. That’s why diversity is so important. You look at things in a different way. To work at NASA, you have to allow yourself to be heard.

Reading Is Fundamental and NASA teamed up for an African American History Month celebration. Leland Melvin, a former astronaut and NASA's Associate Administrator for Education shares his experiences travelling in space and read-aloud the book, The Moon Over Star by author Dianna Hutts Aston in Washington, D.C.
Reading Is Fundamental and NASA teamed up for an African American History Month celebration. Leland Melvin, a former astronaut and NASA’s Associate Administrator for Education shares his experiences travelling in space and read-aloud the book, The Moon Over Star by author Dianna Hutts Aston in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: (Photo by Marvin Joseph/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)

People sometimes don’t speak up because they’ve been marginalized.”

Melvin started his career in aerospace working in the Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Branch at NASA Langley Research Center in 1989. In 1994, he was selected to lead the Vehicle Health Monitoring team for the NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle program. In 1996, he co-designed and monitored construction of an optical nondestructive evaluation facility capable of producing in-line fiber optic sensors.

He became an astronaut in 1998, after sustaining a traumatic ear injury during underwater training exercises and, eventually, being cleared to fly despite his lifelong impairment.

He flew two missions – 565 hours of total log time – on the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-122, and as mission specialist 1 on STS-129. The STS-122 mission was accomplished in 12 days, 18 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds, and traveled 5.2 million miles in 203 Earth orbits. The STS-129 mission was completed in 10 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds, traveling 4.5 million miles in 171 orbits.

Associate Administrator for Education and Astronaut Leland Melvin talks with school children during the “Build the Future” activity where students created their vision of the future in space with LEGO bricks and elements inside a tent that was set up on the launch viewing area at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

While in space, he completed a football pass to another astronaut. He also took hundreds of jaw-dropping photographs.

Mission Possible
After hanging up his space boots, he was appointed head of NASA Education and served as the co-chair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM} Education Task Force, developing the nation’s five-year STEM education plan. Leland was the United States’ representative and chair of the International Space Education Board, a global collaboration on learning about space.

He uses his life story as an athlete, astronaut, scientist, engineer, photographer and musician to help inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM} careers.

The STS-122 and Expedition 16 crewmembers gather for a photo in the International Space Station.
The STS-122 and Expedition 16 crewmembers gather for a photo in the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA

One of his mantras is, “Data over bias.” Bias separates people. Data-sharing brings them together and leads to advances in STEAM and in society.

Space exploration, he said, is about “going someplace you haven’t been and getting over your biases.” It’s a universal win-win, or what he calls “Mission Possible.” And Melvin trusts it will lead to even bigger things. “We’re not going to have a colony on Mars, but we are going to have a human outpost,” he said, preferring the latter term.

Starring in the NFL and flying in outer space are two colossal endeavors. He’s the only human being to do both. He’s also authored two books, “Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances” and “Chasing Space: Young Reader’s Edition.” He’s an accomplished photographer (visit LelandMelvin.com for images}.

On the same website, he gives kid-friendly lessons on, among other things, how to build a rocket racer and how to dissolve the coating on your candy in a really cool way.

He plays the piano in his spare time. And he loves his dogs, who appear on the cover of both his books.

Space shuttle Atlantis crew mission specialists Leland Melvin (R), Rex Walheim (2nd R), European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Hans Schlegel (2nd L) of Germany and ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts (L) of France outside the Operations and Checkout building on February 7, 2008 as they board the Astrovan to launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Space shuttle Atlantis crew mission specialists, including Leland Melvin (R), outside the Operations and Checkout building  as they board the Astrovan to launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Photo Credit: (STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images)

During his interview with Diversity in STEAM Magazine, he was busy feeding his dogs. We asked him what this world- renowned astronaut, explorer, athlete, photographer and teacher has learned from his pups.

“Presence,” he said. “We need to live like our dogs. Chill. Get something to eat. Yawn. Smile. Be like your dog.”

Speaking of presence, he drives home the importance of looking up and around as much as looking down at your devices. Imagine, for instance, an astronaut so fixated on the instruments inside the vessel that he or she forgets to appreciate the majesty of outer space. On a recent hiking trip, Melvin witnessed several young adults busy on their digital instruments.

“Right out there in nature!” he laughed. “There’s a balance between tech and digging your feet into Mother Earth.

Achieving Diversity and Inclusion in College STEM
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young girl students building robotics on desk

In the early 2000s, U.S. colleges and universities began opening offices of diversity through which they frequently appointed a single officer to field student, faculty, and staff complaints and to expand culturally narrow curricula. But with new pressure on schools to support underrepresented students, the single-desk model of administering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts is on its way out.

Colleges leading the DEI charge, including the University of Michigan, place a DEI officer inside every academic program. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs — growing each year in prestige, popularity, and potential income for graduates — are forerunners in this effort, but continue to face some of the toughest DEI challenges.

While colleges have diversified rapidly in terms of race and gender, STEM programs continue to graduate more white students than Black and brown students. Asian students, meanwhile, are overrepresented in STEM: One-third of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Asian students in 2015-16 were in STEM fields — that’s almost double the total percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded in STEM that year.

Studies show slow or stagnant growth in the number of STEM degrees awarded to both students of color and female students. Between race and gender in STEM diversity, it’s gender that lags more: The difference between the number of STEM degrees awarded to male students (64%) and female students (36%) eclipses any difference among racial groups.

“Cultural change often does not happen quickly, and is not the kind of thing that we in science, in engineering, are used to measuring.”. Source: — Dr. Joyce Yen, Director of the University of Washington ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change

Female minority students are even more drastically underrepresented in STEM. White men earn bachelor’s degrees in engineering at six times the rate of white and nonwhite Hispanic women and over 11 times the rate of Black women. (Effectively all STEM education data is gender binary — another DEI shortcoming.)

Last year brought new urgency to colleges’ DEI efforts. Dr. Joyce Yen, director of the University of Washington’s ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change, says that intensity is productive and that a problem-solving mindset is particularly endemic to STEM; however, urgency is somewhat at odds with the slow-going nature of cultural change.

“This is not work that is going to change overnight,” said Yen in an interview with BestColleges. “Cultural change often does not happen quickly, and is not the kind of thing that we in science, in engineering, are used to measuring.”

Without cultural change, underrepresented students and their faculty mentors could continue to exit STEM fields. Dr. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, earth sciences professor at the University of California, Merced, told BestColleges that higher education must “ensure that the folks from minoritized communities who are recruited to colleges are going to be part of supportive work environments.”

Lack of Diversity in STEM at Root of Pay Gap

Over 20% of U.S. adults aged 25 or older hold a bachelor’s degree, and nearly 10% hold a master’s degree. The American Council on Education found that among Black, Hispanic or Latino/a, and American Indian or Alaska Native students, the share of adults with either degree drops by 5 or more percentage points.

Educators first began paying attention to unequal education opportunities in the late 1990s. Since that time, Black students have closed the high school graduation gap, and both Black and brown students are attending college in greater numbers than ever before. Just two decades ago, students of color comprised less than 30% of the total undergraduate population; now, they make up more than 45%.

Getting to college is one challenge — getting through it is another. Black and brown students are more likely to be first-generation college students, facing the hard work and red tape of higher education on their own. They’re also more likely to take out big loans and be defrauded by for-profit universities, which charge more for degrees that hold less value on the job market.

Underrepresented students face steep costs and steep challenges to higher education. Colleges work to enroll students of diverse identities and experiences, but many of these recruits struggle without family, financial, and academic support. They also lack representation among faculty, with few or no professors from similar backgrounds whom they can look to as mentors.

Colleges work to enroll students of diverse identities and experiences, but many of these recruits struggle without family, financial, and academic support.

Though similar percentages of white, nonwhite Latino/a, and Black students declare STEM majors at the start of their studies, nearly 4 in 10 nonwhite Latino/a and Black students end up switching their majors, compared to 29% of white students.

Furthermore, just half of Black and nonwhite Latino/a college students graduate within six years. Attrition is high among Black and nonwhite Latino/a STEM majors, with 26% of Black students and 20% of nonwhite Latino/a students dropping out. The time and money suck of an unfinished college degree can set students back for life.

STEM fields are notoriously nondiverse. For every year these lucrative fields fail to graduate more students of color, the racial pay gap splits open even wider. The same goes for the gender pay gap: The highest-earning STEM jobs employ the lowest percentage of women workers. This division in earning potential starts in college.

While retaining female students and students of color in STEM would be a major step toward achieving pay equity, successful graduates still face an uphill battle when it comes to monetizing their degrees. Women of color in STEM — doubly prejudiced against, first in education and then on the job market — earn about 60% of white men’s salary.
College STEM Programs Work Toward DEI Goals

By supporting underrepresented students in STEM, colleges can better follow through on their economic promises to enrollees. Closing racial and gender education pay gaps depend on closing STEM education gaps. But according to DEI experts, the ultimate payoff of centering DEI in STEM education includes more scientists of diverse backgrounds, more conscientious scientists, and the innovations borne of inclusivity.

“The questions that we ask now are actually weaker questions,” explained Yen, who noted that questions scientific during research and development often fail to look at the world through a DEI lens. Without that lens, key pieces of information are left out. The result? Problems like voice recognition software that can’t pick up higher-pitched female voices, and facial recognition software that fails to see darker-skinned faces.

“There was a time [when] voice recognition systems literally could not hear female voices. … You are both metaphorically and literally silenced.”. Source: — Dr. Joyce Yen, Director of the University of Washington ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change

Scientists and engineers occupy pivotal roles in either perpetuating or interrupting the inequalities embedded in the world around us. When STEM students are taught to see through a DEI lens, it changes which problems are addressed and how solutions are optimized to be truly inclusive.

A pioneering institution in DEI, the University of Michigan charged all 51 of its academic and administrative units to develop DEI plans. Each unit was then made to appoint its own diversity officer to serve as a “culture catalyst” and to “lead, coordinate, support, execute, and create structures of accountability.”

While U.S. institutions of higher education continue to struggle to create diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments, intentional efforts — such as those made by U-M — show promise.

Where Colleges’ DEI Intentions Fall Short

Thanks in part to colleges’ recruiting efforts, enrollment numbers indicate improvements in diversity. But the graduation gap, particularly among Black students who declared STEM majors, persists.

Diversity is only partially addressed when colleges focus on recruitment, rather than climate and retention. Berhe says DEI priorities must include “a reimagined mentoring structure” that allows multiple faculty members to support Black and brown students as they learn and face different challenges.

Read the complete article posted on Best Colleges.com

Climate activists with disabilities fight for inclusion
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Climate activists with disabilities decry a lack of representation and burnout.

, ABC News

Despite 15% of the world’s population living with some form of a disability, research into the effects of climate change on the disabled community is still emerging.

Natural disasters resulting from climate change, like heatwaves and wildfires, disproportionately affect people with disabilities, according to advocates and activists. The harmful effects of climate change faced by disabled people are diverse and include — but aren’t limited to — reduced mobility, inability to regulate body temperature and respiratory problems.

Moreover, those with disabilities face further barriers in becoming advocates for environmental action and voicing their concerns, several experts who spoke with ABC News said.

While advocates claim the digital age has given climate change activists with disabilities more of a voice, they say the pandemic, which has forced society to live life even more online, has created more opportunities for those with disabilities; not just with work-from-home, but also to participate in activism.

Now, climate change activists with disabilities are increasingly demanding their place at the forefront of the climate change fight.

Yet, there remains an overall lack of visibility and literacy about the experiences of individuals with disabilities, Gregor Wolbring, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine and an ability and disability studies scholar, told ABC News.

“You have to find a way that people are exposed more to disabled people in general,” Wolbring said.

In a recently published study looking at more than 5,500 abstracts of the academic climate change and environmental action literature, Wolbring and his colleague Chiara Salvatore found that none of these studies focused on youth with disabilities as environmental activists, and none dealt with the impact of environmental activism on youth with disabilities.

The 14 studies they identified that did address disability and environmental action did so in the capacity of impairments due to environmental issues such as toxins.

Recently, there were also claims that COP26, considered the largest and most significant climate change conference, was inaccessible to many with disabilities, even though COP President Alok Sharma in May 2021, promised the event would be the most inclusive COP ever.

Reports from the first week highlighted the inaccessibility of the conference venue as Israeli energy minister Karine Elharrar-Hartstein, a wheelchair user, was unable to enter.

The minister was eventually able to enter the venue after her concerns reached Israel and UK Prime Ministers Naftali Bennett and Boris Johnson, who issued her a public apology.

COP26 organizers also addressed the incident in a tweet and said, “#COP26 must be inclusive and accessible to all and the venue is designed to facilitate that.”

“I think people are definitely horrified at the lack of accessibility, but because it was solved for the Israeli minister, they don’t think it’s a problem anymore,” 17-year-old climate activist Scarlett Westbrook, who uses crutches, told ABC News.

From reports of having to walk over 10 minutes to enter the venue to the misuse of accessible elevators by camera crews, Westbrook said every part of the conference was “as inaccessible as it possibly could be.”

Click here to read the full article on ABC News.

A Future for People With Disabilities in Outer Space Takes Flight
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people with different disabilities checking their skills. Eric Ingram, who typically gets around in a wheelchair and who has a condition that has prevented him from becoming an astronaut, on the flight. “It was legitimately weird,” he said.

, NY Times

Eric Ingram typically moves through the world on his wheelchair. The 31-year-old chief executive of SCOUT Inc., a smart satellite components company, was born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, a rare condition that affects his joints and blocked him from his dream of becoming an astronaut. He applied and was rejected, twice.

But onboard a special airplane flight this week, he spun effortlessly through the air, touching nothing. Moving around, he found, was easier in the simulated zero-gravity environment where he needed so few tools to help.

While simulating lunar gravity on the flight — which is about one-sixth of Earth’s — he discovered something even more surprising: for the first time in his life, he could stand up.

“It was legitimately weird,” he said. “Just the act of standing was probably almost as alien to me as floating in zero gravity.”

He was one of 12 disabled passengers who swam through the air aboard a parabolic flight in Southern California last Sunday in an experiment testing how people with disabilities fare in a zero-gravity environment. Parabolic flights, which fly within Earth’s atmosphere in alternating upward and downward arcs, allow passengers to experience zero gravity for repeated short bursts, and are a regular part of training for astronauts.

The flight was organized by AstroAccess, a nonprofit initiative that aims to make spaceflight accessible to to all. Although about 600 people have been to space since the beginning of human spaceflight in the 1960s, NASA and other space agencies have long restricted the job of astronaut to a minuscule slice of humanity. The American agency initially only selected white, physically fit men to be astronauts and even when the agency broadened its criteria, it still only chose people that met certain physical requirements.

This blocked the path to space for many with disabilities, overlooking arguments that disabled people could make excellent astronauts in some cases.

But the rise of private spaceflight, funded by billionaires with the support of government space agencies, is creating the possibility of allowing a much wider and more diverse pool of people to make trips to the edge of space and beyond. And those with disabilities are aiming to be included.

The participants in Sunday’s AstroAccess flight argue that accessibility issues must be considered now — at the advent of private space travel — rather than later, because retrofitting equipment to be accessible would take more time and money.

The Federal Aviation Administration is prohibited from creating safety regulations for private spaceflights until October 2023. Initiatives like AstroAccess are aiming to guide the way that government agencies think about accessibility on spaceflights.

“It’s crucial that we’re able to get out ahead of that regulatory process and prevent misinformation or lack of information or lack of data from making bad regulation that would prevent someone with disability flying on one of these trips,” Mr. Ingram said.

The group also hopes that making everything accessible from the get-go could lead to new space innovations that are helpful for everyone, regardless of disability.

Click here to read the full article on NY Times.

Russian Film Crew Returns to Earth Safely After 12 Days of Shooting on the ISS
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Russian space agency rescue team members help actress Yulia Peresild out from the capsule shortly after the landing of the Russian Soyuz MS-18 space capsule from iss

By Jody Serrano, Gizmodo

The Russian film crew that traveled to the International Space Station to film scenes for the first movie shot partially in space returned to Earth safely on Sunday. The milestone will potentially give Russian film industry a small win over Hollywood, which also aims to shoot a movie on the ISS featuring Tom Cruise in the future.

On Saturday, actress Yulia Peresild, director Klim Shipenko, and Oleg Novitsky—a real-life cosmonaut who’s been on the ISS since April and also played a part in the movie—headed back to Earth on a Russian Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft. They landed with no incidents in the Kazakhstan desert at 10:35 a.m. local time after a roughly three-hour trip.

In total, Peresild and Shipenko spent 12 days in space filming scenes for their movie The Challenge, in which Peresild portrays an operating surgeon who prepares for a flight to the ISS to save an ailing cosmonaut’s (reportedly played by Novitsky) life.

“The descent vehicle of the crewed spacecraft Soyuz MS-18 is standing upright and is secure. The crew are feeling good!” the Russian space agency Roscosmos, which is part of the joint film project, said on Twitter, according to a translation by AFP.

In fact, the crew sort of had to feel good, because they weren’t done filming. The film crew on Earth got right to work while Russian officials helped Peresild, Shipenko, and Novitsky out of the MS-18 capsule. The New York Times reported that a producer could be seen shouting instructions on the livestream of the landing provided by Roscosmos and NASA.

“Guys, please, let us do some shooting,” the producer said. “Please, do not do any filming on your smartphones. Do not take any videos, because right now, this is actually the future end of the movie.”

Click here to read the full article on Gizmodo.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022
  3. From Day One
    February 9, 2022
  4. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  5. From Day One
    February 22, 2022
  6. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022