Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy

(January 2018)  CSMA organized three workshops for the January 2018 AAS Meeting. The workshops were: "Everyday Anti-Racism: Tools and Ideas to Combat Racism in Astronomy Departments and Organizations" (Sunday 1-5pm in Potomac Ballroom 2), "Teaching for Equity" (Monday 10:30am - 3:30 pm, Chesapeake 8), and "Thriving in Grad School as a Marginalized Student" (Monday 2-4pm, Potomac Ballroom 2).  We also hosted a CSMA Meet and Greet on Tuesday from 6-7:30pm in Chesapeake 7-8.

(Oct 2017)  CSMA was present at the 2017 SACNAS National Conference.  We organized a workshop entitled "The Academic Toolbox: Navigating Grad School as a Marginalized Student" and a special session called "Exceptional Sources in the Universe."  Speakers included Joey Rodriguez, Audra Hernandez, Eileen Gonzales and CSMA's own Kate Daniel.

(January 2017)  CSMA organized a Town Hall meeting at the 229th AAS meeting this January in Grapevine, TX entitled "Racism = Prejudice + Power: A Discussion of Racism in the Field of Astronomy."  The slides are available, as well as the "What I wish my white colleagues knew" poster.  CSMA is currently brainstorming a follow-up session for the next winter meeting, any ideas and feedback are welcome.

(Oct 2016)  The 2016 SACNAS National Conference will be held October 13-15 at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, CA.  Visit the conference website for more information.   Take special note of the session "A Sweep of the Universe: Leading Topics in Astrophysics on Multiple Scales of Space and Time" on Thursday from 10:30 - 12:00, featuring Adam Burgasser, Elisa Quintana, Jackie Fahrety, Jorge Moreno and Charee Peters.

(Jan 2015) The First Inclusive Astronomy Conference has been announced, and organizers are inviting the participation of all to the meeting to be held June 17-19, 2015, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Inclusive Astronomy 2015 will serve as a welcoming, strategic venue to advocate and provide resources for the inclusion in the astronomy community of: people of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, or questioning (LGBTIQ) people; people with disabilities; women; and anyone who holds more than one of these identities. Those who seek to aid in such inclusion are also invited to attend. The organizing committee includes members of the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy, Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy, and Working Group on LGBTIQ Equality of the American Astronomical Society. The conference homepage is and registration begins February 1.

(Jan 2015) The 2015 Conference of the National Society of Black Physicists will be held February 25-28, 2015 at the Hilton Baltimore in Baltimore, MD. The conference, themed as ?Re-Vision The Future of Scientific Leadership?, will consist of three full days of educational sessions, exhibitions, and interactive networking opportunities, as well as a student career fair and poster sessions on cutting edge issues related to current trends in physics and science. Registration deadlines are January 30 for students and February 9 for faculty/professionals. See for registration and details.

(Jan 2015) New issue of SPECTRUM now available! Articles by:

  • Adam Burgasser on the Costs of taking the GRE and the UC-HBCU program
  • Kevin Covey on the NSBP Meeting, 26-28 February 2015
  • Chanda Prescod-Weinstein on Intersectionality
  • North American Students of Cooperation guidebook on Being an Ally
  • Keivan Stassun on the First Inclusive Astronomy Meeting
  • Alexander Rudolph & Tammy Smecker-Hane on the Cal-Bridge Partnership
  • Meet the CSMA Council Members
  • and News You Can Use

(Jan 2014) New issue of SPECTRUM now available! Articles by:

  • Kathy Cooksey on I!mposter Syndrome
  • Calvin Ortega on why there are so few Native American astronomers
  • Dara Norman, Jedidah Isler, Hakeem Oluseyi, Nancy Morrison, Caroline Simpson and Laura Trouille on women of color in astronomy & astrophysics Why So Few Native American Astronomers?
  • Meet the new CSMA committee members and chair
  • and News You Can Use

(Jan 2014) Presentations from the AAS Special Session on the use of GRE scores for graduate admissions are now posted; also check out presentations from the APS Bridge Program 2013 Summer Meeting

(Dec 2013) Special Session at the January 2014 223rd AAS Meeting: The Proper Use of GRE Scores for Enhancing Diversity and Excellence in Astronomy and Physics Graduate Programs

Organized by Keivan Stassun (Vanderbilt University, Fisk University)
Co-sponsored by the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (CSMA), the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA), and the Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA)

Standardized test scores (GREs) are a staple of graduate admissions criteria in physics and astronomy graduate programs. It has long been known that GRE scores are powerfully correlated with gender and ethnicity. New research (Miller 2013) shows that women score on average ~60 points lower than men and African Americans score on average ~150 points lower than Caucasians on the General GRE Quantitative exam. It is common practice in top-tier physics and astronomy graduate programs to adopt a GRE "cutoff" on the quantitative GRE of ~700, either as a matter of policy or else as a subjective but strong weight. The new research shows that applying such a cutoff immediately eliminates more than two-thirds of women, roughly three-quarters of Hispanics, and nearly all African Americans from the applicant pool. This session will present a summary of this important new research (including recent research on the Physics GRE subject exam), will present complementary strategies that have been demonstrated to successfully predict success, and will engage the community in an open discussion of best practices for sustaining a commitment to broadened participation while maintaining standards of excellence focused on successful scientific careers.

Wednesday, January 8, 10:00-11:30am.
Session Schedule:

  • Presentation by Casey Miller (University of South Florida) on GRE correlations with gender, ethnicity and PhD outcomes
  • Presentation by William Sedlacek (University of Maryland): "Why Doesn't The GRE or GPA Work in Selecting Graduate Students & What Alternatives Are There?"
  • Presentation by Jillian Bellovary (Vanderbilt University, Fisk University): "Going beyond standardized exams in graduate admissions: Enhancing diversity and predicting success (Lessons from the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program)"
    [PDF] [APJ Study] [Rubrics] [Bridge Toolkit]
  • Panel discussion on graduate admissions criteria, outcomes, and diversity: Prof. Adam Burgasser (UC San Diego), Prof. John Johnson (Harvard U.), Prof. Heather Morrison (Case Western University), Prof. Greg Walton (Stanford University), representatives from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and NSF.
  • Extra! Slides from Brent Bridgeman (Educational Testing Service): "Reducing Bias in the Admissions Process"

(Jan 2013) Research Based Initiatives for Broadening the Participation of Women and Minorities in Astronomy

221st AAS Meeting in Long Beach, CA

There are now several programs sponsored by NSF and hosted by AAS member institutions that focus on providing early and ongoing research experiences to underrepresented groups in order to enhance recruitment, retention, training, and mentoring starting as early as the freshman year and continuing through to completion of the PhD and beyond. The impetus for these programs is clear, given the mandate from the NSF and from the Astro2010 decadal survey to address the long-standing problem of fully engaging the nation in the development of the astronomy and astrophysics workforce for the 21st century. This session will inform the Society about proven best practice approaches to improve retention in the sciences, increase diversity, provide paths for students who for various reasons enter the astronomical profession at a later life/career stage, etc. The speakers will describe the structure of their programs as well as the research basis, the underlying theory of action, the measurable outcomes, and the documented blueprints that are available for others to adopt/adapt these proven strategies.

  • "A Model For Creating Innovators Through Freshman Research"
    Donald E. Winget (University of Texas), M.H. Montgomery (University of Texas)
  • "The Pre-Major in Astronomy Program at the University of Washington: Increasing Diversity Through Research Experiences and Mentoring Since 2005"
    Philip Rosenfield (University of Washington)
  • "The California-Arizona Minority Partnership for Astronomy Research and Education (CAMPARE): A New Model for Promoting Minority Participation in Astronomy Research and Education"
    Alexander L. Rudolph (California State Polytechnic University), C.D. Impey (University of Arizona), J.H. Bieging (University of Arizona), C.B. Phillips (SETI Institute), J. Tieu (NASA JPL), E.E. Prather (University of Arizona), M.S. Povich (California State Polytechnic University)
  • "Columbia's Bridge to the PhD Program: Who What Where When Why How"
    Marcel A. Agueros (Columbia University)
  • "Increasing Diversity at the PhD Level in Astronomy: The Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program"
    Keivan Stassun (Vanderbilt University, Fisk University), K. Holley-Bockelmann (Vanderbilt University, Fisk University), A.A. Berlind (Fisk University)

(June 2012) Straight Talk About an Astronomical Career: A Professional Development Session

220th AAS Meeting in Anchorage, AK
organized by Dara Norman (NOAO)

Mentoring of ALL young researchers early in their careers is essential for retaining them as active members of the astronomical community. This is particularly important for underrepresented scientists who often face additional barriers to their success in science. As part of the mission of the CSMA, we will sponsor a special session luncheon as part of the June 2012 AAS meeting in Anchorage, AK to introduce junior to more senior astronomical researchers in order to help build and strengthen mentoring connections as these scientist move through their careers. We intend for the discussions to be largely guided by audience participation. Students and recent PhDs are invited to discuss topics that include challenging advisors, difficult or confusing professional situations or other topics like "impostor syndrome". During this informal, interactive session a panel of professional astronomers will be on hand to present information and strategies relevant for building a career as a professional astronomer. We can also discuss the academic paths leading to a degree in Astronomy and/or Astrophysics and the various trajectories that can be taken on the way to a career that makes the most of that degree. We will give tips for applying for postdoctoral positions, and suggest techniques for making the most of your time at each stage along your career path.

(Jan 2012) Increasing Diversity in Your Department

219th AAS Meeting in Austin, TX
cosponsored with the AAS Working Group on LGBTIQ Equality (WGLE) and the AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA).

Diversity is becoming increasingly important as a component of a successful department. As examples, the rankings of graduate programs by the National Academies highlight diversity as a criterion and diversity is an important component of the broader impact statements required by NSF proposals. This special session will present hiring policies and practices that have been proven to be effective in increasing both the diversity and the excellence of science departments around the country. We will recommend steps that departments can take to recruit and retain women, LGBT people, and minorities; discuss what factors contribute to a friendly departmental climate; and demonstrate how to create a diverse department while enhancing academic quality.

(May 2011) Transforming Cultural Norms: Mentoring/Networking Groups for Women and Minorities

218th AAS Meeting in Boston, MA
organizer: Laura Trouille
cosponsored with the AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA).

A growing number of universities, government labs, and other institutions have established scientific networking and peer mentoring groups for early career (undergraduate, graduate student, postdocs, and new faculty) women and minorities. These groups provide a promising channel for addressing retention and other equity issues. The AAS Committee on the Status of Women (in coordination with the AAS Committee on the Status of Minorities) will host a panel discussion of astronomers, physicists, and administrators from funding agencies working to maximize the impact of such groups. The goal of this session is (1) to provide information to the community on how to organize, fund, and ensure their sustainability and institutionalization and (2) to present examples showing how departments have managed to change the climate so that mentoring and networking groups become accepted as the norm. We encourage both junior and senior AAS members to attend and share their experiences and opinions..

(Jan 2011) Strategies for Addressing Harassment and Prejudice

217th AAS Meeting in Seattle, WA

As with many companies, industries and universities, the field of Astronomy is not immune to harassment. Harassment has been a problem within the field for many years (e.g. See issues of the AAS Status Newsletter, June 1992, 1995). The proliferation of student and professional blogs now document many cases of harassment (sexual and otherwise) within the field by perpetrators at all levels. Victims of such abuses often feel alone and without recourse. Fear of not being believed or of retaliation keep those involved from reporting these incidents and often institutional policies on harassment have not been made clear or are disregarded. The CSMA and CSWA are co-sponsoring a special session to provide practical information on dealing with harassment in the workplace and the classroom. Speakers for this session have been selected because of their expertise with the legal, human resources and EEOC aspects of combating harassment in the workplace, as well as for their familiarity with the field of Astronomy. The speakers will provide information on documenting abuses, seeking help and support within as well as outside of one's immediate workplace, and the legal obligations of those to whom the abuse is reported. The organizers encourage attendance by colleagues at all levels who are interested in eradicating common and currently accepted harassment from our field.

Special session presentations from the workshop can be downloaded below:

(May 2010) Mentoring Astronomers: Students to Early Faculty II

216th AAS Meeting in Miami, FL

The CSMA and CSWA are sponsoring a special session devoted to an exchange of information and best practices on mentoring as part of the summer 2010 AAS meeting. This session will consist of a participatory mini-workshop to discuss and practice implementing effective mentoring techniques.

The speaker is involved in developing and conducting research mentor training programs affiliated with the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching; the Delta Program in Research, Teaching, and Learning; and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. The mentor training has been designed to be effective for STEM disciplines and has been field tested with astronomers in particular. The seminar has been adapted for use with proteges who range in experience from grad students to postdocs, to faculty. The primary content will be the presentation and discussion of a few case studies. Topics that will be discussed in the context of mentoring are expectations, communication, independence, diversity, understanding and ethics.

(Jan 2010) Mentoring Astronomers: Students to Faculty I

215th AAS Meeting in Washington, D.C.

The CSMA and CSWA have sponsored two sessions devoted to an exchange of information and best practices on mentoring as part of the 2010 AAS meeting in Washington, D.C. The intended audience were astronomical researchers and faculty, as well as students, who act as mentors to more junior colleagues, and who will continue to be mentors as they progress through their careers. These sessions, first presenting best practices and information, and the second a participatory workshop, were held in the morning and afternoon, respectively, on Wednesday, January 6, 2010.

Special session presentations from the workshop can be downloaded below:

(Jan 2010) Hubble's Diverse Universe

215th AAS Meeting in Washington, D.C.

The US International Year of Astronomy 2009 Cultural Astronomy Working Group, in conjunction with the CSMA, held a viewing of "Hubble’s Diverse Universe" at the 2010 AAS meeting in Washington, D.C. The documentary featured interviews with African American and Hispanic American astrophysicists, and discusses their research, the role of NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope in their careers, and the issues with diversity in astronomy.

(June 2009) Mentoring a New Generation of Minority Astronomers

214th AAS Meeting in Long Beach, CA
Organized by Dara Norman (NOAO) and Lou Strolger (Western Kentucky University)

The numbers of under-represented minorities in the field of Astronomy remain low. Mentoring of ALL young researchers early in their careers is essential to retain them as active members of the astronomical community. This is particularly important for minority scientists who often face additional barriers to their success in science.

The Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (CSMA) is hosting a special session luncheon as part of the January 2009 AAS meeting in Long Beach to discuss the important role mentoring can play in increasing the numbers of astronomers with minority backgrounds. The luncheon will also provide an opportunity for members and potential members of the CSMA to meet the broader community. Those with interests in minority issues and/or mentoring are encouraged to attend. We hope that this and future CSMA activities will help build and strengthen connections within our community. We have hosted a luncheon at the 2009 AAS Meeting in Long Beach, CA to discuss the role of mentorship.

  • Further information can be found at NOAO.