Rueben is the director and principal investigator of a lab in wildlife and fisheries. He attends a meeting as a function of Academic and Student Affairs’ joint student success initiative. At the meeting, Reuben learns about a phenomenon on his campus in which several labs on campus have been successful in attracting women, queer and trans folk and students of color as undergraduate and graduate research assistants.

Reuben is surprised to learn that these unofficial research teams are regarded as an “oasis” in an otherwise inhospitable research environment for historically marginalized students. Reuben is also surprised to hear that many of the students attracted to the “oasis” labs are engaging in research not directly aligned with their majors and career ambitions. Some have even changed their majors to participate in these lab spaces. Some of the students cited as examples began their academic careers in wildlife and fisheries.

As Reuben reflects on his own lab and the demographics of his team, he recognizes that his research assistants are disproportionately white, cisgender men, and heterosexual. Reuben convenes his direct reports to discuss how they may have contributed to the flight of historically marginalized students from wildlife and fisheries. Reuben takes personal responsibility in exploring what changes his team needs to create a more inclusive lab environment and to recruit students back into his research community. 

Key Take-Aways: 
  • The Issue: An inhospitable research lab culture has resulted in women, queer and trans students, and students of color clustering in “oasis” labs that often fall outside of their academic majors and personal research goals.
  • The Deliberation: Reuben recognizes that his lab is contributing to the flight pattern among historically marginalized students and convenes his team to explore the conditions of the lab and consider opportunities to recruit students back.
  • The Growth: Reuben is able to reflect vulnerably on his contributions to problematic conditions that undermine student success and is further able to take personal responsibility in leading change among his team.

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