GRL Graduate Student Patricia Jaimes Receives Neil Research Award

Patricia Jaimes has received the MSU Department of Geological Sciences Neil Research Award. Paty will use this award to fund data collection and presentation of research findings for her project, Within and Beyond the Leaky Pipeline:Understanding Minority Student Transitions in Earth System Science.

Congratulations, Paty!

Gaslighting and Implicit Bias – Academic Style

So – I just got an email from an administrator. After discussing the business at hand, he ends the email by requesting that I change the “tone” of my emails. Setting aside for a moment that “tone” is not easily discernible in written correspondence, here are my issues with a male administrator telling me, a female faculty, to change my “tone”:

1) This is the same administrator who once sat across from me in a meeting and BEFORE I EVER SPOKE told me that I shouldn’t get emotional. Classic step on the slippery slope of gaslighting. In that meeting, he assumed I would have a “tone” before I ever even spoke.  More than anything else, it seemed like an attempt to silence me. Or, put another way, if  you discredit me before I speak, you won’t have to pay attention to what I am saying.

2) The “tone” the administrator objected to was my reasonable, and often repeated, request for policies and procedures for administrative tasks. How does the unit assign job duties, complete paperwork, spend funds on students, hire new faculty, etc.? The problem isn’t my “tone” – the problem is a fundamental disagreement about the place of equity, inclusion, and transparency in the academic workplace. I would argue that an effective working environment must include practices that promote equity (here, for an example, is a discussion of equity theory in the workplace).

3) Accusing a woman of having a “tone” is all about implicit bias. In my case, I think my administrator is engaging in prescriptive bias – essentially penalizing me for engaging in the traditionally male behaviors of being successful, promoting my (and my lab’s) successes, negotiating for resources, and making reasonable requests of the unit. This prescriptive bias leads to me being seen as problematic and not a team player.

The effect of the bullying and implicit bias I have experienced in the workplace (not to mention sexism) is that I am no longer as engaged in the success of my units and institution as I used to be. I am very involved with my lab, of course. Those few units I am affiliated with that explicitly promote equity and inclusion get most of the remainder of my attention. The units that are secretive, or which allow discriminatory behavior to persist, or which spend little to no time dealing with implicit biases (everyone has them!) simply won’t benefit from my time and attention. If I knew how to change things for the better, I would. As it stands, the best I can do is focus on impacting those spaces that are safe and inclusive and work to educate my students on the best mechanisms for navigating the rest of the world.


Sexual Harassment in Academia – International Edition

Last updated 8/17/2016

Update 8/17/16: I will add high profile international cases as I become aware of them.

I have identified over 425 cases of faculty and administrators engaging in sexual harassment at U.S. universities. In creating this list, I have come across troubling references to cases occurring outside of the U.S. To be clear that sexual harassment on the part of professors or administrators is not just an “American” thing…here is a short list of cases. Note that this is a very small sample simply because only a handful of these cases are reported in the English language media and the details of many stories are difficult to verify.

2014: Brajendra Sutradhar, Mathematics, Memorial University. 20 DAY SUSPENSION, RETIRED.

2016: David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, History, Brock University. NOT “ASSIGNED TO CLASS AND IS NOT ON CAMPUS”.


2014: Wu Chunming, Xiamen University. FIRED.

2015: UNNAMED, Sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University. FIRED.

2015: Rajat Kumar Mohanty, Linguistics, English and Foreign Languages University. JAILED.

2015: Mario Schneider, Political Science, Hebrew University. BARRED FROM CAMPUS FOR 18 MONTHS/PAID COMPENSATION TO STUDENT.

2015: ELEVEN LECTURERS!, Hebrew University. OUTCOME UNKNOWN.,7340,L-4663660,00.html


1994: Toru Yano, Southeast Asian Studies. Kyoto University. RESIGNED/WENT INTO SECLUSION IN BUDDHIST TEMPLE.

2002: UNNAMED, Ehime University. FIRED.

2015: UNNAMED, Okinawa Prefecture College of Performing Arts. FIRED.

2015: Kang Suk-jin, Mathematics, Seoul National University. JAILED.



2012: UNNAMED, Mathematics, University of Zurich. FINED.


Caitlin Kirby Presents at the 2016 Fate of the Earth Symposium

Caitlin Kirby, first-year PhD student in the Geocognition Research Lab, presented at the 2016 Fate of the Earth symposium last week. This was Caitlin’s first poster presentation as a graduate student. She presented on preliminary results from interviews she conducted with individuals who work at the nexus between climate science organizations and Tribes; this is a first step on an NSF-funded project investigating ethical training that occurs at this nexus. She is currently co-analyzing these interviews with an undergraduate (Citralina Haruo) from our collaborator, the Sustainable Development Institute at College of Menominee Nation.

Good job, Caitlin and Citralina, and well done!


GRL Graduate Student Paty Jaimes Receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

The Geocognition Research Lab is proud to announce that first-year graduate student Patricia (Paty) Jaimes is the proud recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship! Paty’s research project, Within and Beyond the Leaky Pipeline: Understanding Minority Student Transitions in Earth System Science, will allow her to explore the underlying causes of the lack of diversity among Earth System scientists. Paty’s work has the potential to dramatically influence what it means to be a scientist studying the planet and we are all looking forward to both her research and her recommendations for diversifying the field!

Congratulations, Paty!

GRL student Caitlin Kirby receives grant!

Caitlin Kirby, a first-year graduate student in the GRL, has hit the ground running! She recently submitted her first grant proposal and the lab is excited to announce that she received funding from Michigan State University’s Be Spartan Green program for her project entitled: Spartans’ Climate Change Knowledge and Empowerment. Caitlin will use her grant funds to “evaluate [student] understanding of and attitudes towards climate change” and “develop workshops to address common knowledge gaps and provide tools for students to act to impact climate change”.

I am so impressed with Caitlin’s drive, her ability to write a winning grant proposal, and the new ideas she brings into the lab every day! Congratulations, Caitlin!

GRL student Patricia Jaimes receives award!

Patricia Jaimes, a first-year student in the Geocognition Research Lab, has received the 2016 Tracy A. Hammer Award for Professional Development from the Michigan State University College of Natural Sciences. This award is made even more special because Fellow first-year graduate student Caitlin Kirby made the nomination. Congratulations to both students!

To quote from Caitlin’s letter of recommendation: “I have witnessed Paty’s dedication…during her first semester of graduate school as she has fully dived into…her graduate classes, submitting a proposal to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and generating research ideas and analyzing data…As a researcher in the Geocognition Laboratory, she is working to discover why there is a lack of underrepresented minorities in Earth System Sciences (ESS), and to find avenues for improving the pathways for minority students to ESS degrees. Her interests were shaped by her job mentoring fellow students at NEIU, where she was frustrated by the trend of minority students dropping out of STEM degrees because of challenges they faced at school and at home. Paty has turned this frustration into positive energy, and is working as a research assistant on an NSF-funded grant seeking to understand the links between social capital, mentoring relationships, and success in ESS for diverse populations…

I personally think the final sentence of Cailtin’s letter says it best: “It is in connecting with others …that Paty’s passion becomes evident and, I believe, has the power to improve the climate of ESS to make it more inclusive for everyone, regardless of their personal challenges.

I’m looking forward to future surprises from my amazing cohort of current students (Caitlin Kirby, Patricia Jaimes, and Amanda Lorenz) and am so thankful that they support each other!




Edited on 3/12/16 to add a SEVENTH UC-Berkeley case.

The internet is abuzz with the latest sexual harassment case to hit UC-Berkeley, that of Sujit Choudhry, Dean of Law School. This comes on the heals of Geoff Marcy’s resignation – that case captured attention because of Marcy’s research prowess and his long history of sexually harassing women with whom he worked. In addition, it is unclear how UC-Berkeley dealt with sexual harassment complaints made about Marcy over a decade or more.

The suggestion has been made that maybe now UC-Berkeley will “get it right” and will truly deal with sexual harassment on campus. But will they? Below is a list of SIX sexual harassment cases involving Berkeley (taken from the longer list of national cases)- these are just the ones reported outside of the campus. Notice that two Deans of the Law School resigned under sexual harassment complaints – one in 2002 and the most recent case. Another case of sexual harassment by a faculty member stretches back to 1980. I don’t believe Berkeley is unique in dealing with individual transgressors through resignation or internal punishment rather than addressing larger systemic issues. In fact – I made a list for Yale below, just to illustrate the point that institutions can have multiple cases of sexual harassment that make the news and yet still not know how to effectively stop the harassment from happening in the first place.

Institutions need to stop addressing sexual harassment as it occurs, and need to start addressing it as a symptom of an institutional problem. A culture that permits sexual harassment, tells victims to deal with it so they don’t hurt their careers, works to protect the harasser from negative impacts – this is what needs to change.

University of California-Berkeley

  1. 1980: Elbaki Hermassi, University of California-Berkeley. SUSPENDED WITHOUT PAY FOR ONE QUARTER.
  2. 1991: Michel Strickmann, University of California-Berkeley. FIRED.
  3. 2002: John P. Dwyer, Dean of Law School, University of California-Berkeley. RESIGNED.
  4. 2012: Diane Leite, Assistant Vice Chancellor, University of California-Berkeley. REASSIGNED TO NEW POSITION.
  5. 2014: Graham Fleming, Vice Chancellor for Research, University of California-Berkeley. RESIGNED.
  6. 2016: Sujit Choudhry, Dean of Law School, University of California–Berkeley. 10-PERCENT REDUCTION IN SALARY FOR ONE-YEAR, LEAVE OF ABSENCE FROM DEANSHIP, BACK ON FACULTY.
  7. 2015: Geoff Marcy, University of California-Berkeley. RESIGNED, NOW EMERITUS FACULTY.


  1. 1992: Stephen Kellert, Yale. DISCIPLINED (DETAILS UNKNOWN).
  2. 1993: Name UnKnown, Yale University. RESIGNED.
  3. 1996: Jay Jorgenson, Yale. REPRIMANDED.
  4. 2007: Joseph Schlessinger, Yale. LAWSUIT SETTLED. and
  5. 2013: John Coleman Darnell, Yale. ONE YEAR SUSPENSION.
  6. 2015: Michael Simons, Yale. 18-MONTH SUSPENSION, THEN RESIGNED.
  7. 2015: Rex L. Mahnensmith, Yale. RESIGNED.

New paper published in Journal of Geoscience Education

The Geocognition Research Lab is happy to announce a new paper published in the February issue of the Journal of Geoscience Education:

by Steven W. Anderson and Julie C. Libarkin

ABSTRACT: Nationwide pre- and post-testing of introductory courses with the Geoscience Concept Inventory (GCI) shows little gain for many of its questions. Analysis of more than 3,500 tests shows that 22 of the 73 GCI questions had gains of <0.03, and nearly half of these focused on basic physics and chemistry. We also discovered through an assessment of nearly 500 matched pre- and posttests that students were less likely to change answers on basic physics and chemistry questions than they were on those for the geosciences, with many of the low-gain geoscience questions showing switch rates that were similar to that expected for guessing. These results also pertain to the high-scoring pretest students, suggesting that little geoscience conceptual entrenchment occurs for many students enrolled in entry-level courses. Switching rates for physics and chemistry questions were well below the rates associated with geosciences questions, suggesting greater entrenchment. We suggest that students may have difficulty settling on a correct geoscience conception because of the shaky, more entrenched supporting science underpinnings upon which Earth Science ideas are built. These results prompt the following questions: (1) When do our geology majors learn fundamental science concepts if little learning occurs in the introductory courses? (2) What role does the introductory course play in this eventual learning? (3) What strategies can be employed in introductory courses to enhance learning for those students who will only take one college-level geosciences course? We suggest that longitudinal studies of geosciences majors are needed for periods longer than a semester and that more attention be paid to when conceptual change occurs for our majors.

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