FSU Biology - Diversity Statement

Department of Biological Science

at Florida State University

Department of Biological Science Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement

The faculty, staff, and students of the Department of Biological Science are committed to making our department and discipline more inclusive. We share a collective responsibility towards each other's well-being, with an understanding that the relevance and ingenuity of biological science depends on greater inclusion of under-represented groups. For this reason, we are dedicated to preventing all forms of discrimination that unfairly disadvantage some, privilege others, and run counter to our values of equity and justice. We strive for a cohesive and collaborative culture focused on excellence in research, teaching, mentoring, and service. We are committed to valuing, celebrating and leveraging the differences and similarities within our community to create a fertile environment for problem-solving -- one that is both inventive and compassionate*.

Department of Biological Science Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee

The Department of Biological Science Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee (DEIC) is a committee composed of students, faculty, and staff who are united by an interest in making the department a better place for all.


In 2017/2018 an ad hoc Diversity Committee was formed to draft a departmental Diversity Statement; that statement was approved by unanimous faculty vote and is now on our department’s diversity and inclusion webpage: https://www.bio.fsu.edu/diversity_statement.php. The committee launched in fall 2018, with three members (two faculty and one graduate student) and has grown greatly since then. The committee consists of volunteers rather than elected members to ensure the broadest possible participation (everyone is welcome to join) and that all members are actively participating in moving specific projects forward. The Department Chair will use appointments or call an election to make sure that the DEIC continues to be active.


The DEIC is open to everyone. Participation is organized around working groups focusing on specific tasks. A steering committee oversees the DEIC to ensure that working groups remain active, provide feedback on project proposals, and complete organizational tasks for the committee. The organizing committee does not tell people what to do, but rather facilitates and keeps track of what people want to do, as well as participating in working groups on various topics.

Working groups are organized around strategic goals, such as inclusive graduate student mentoring or departmental community-building. These groups develop proposals for actions they want to see happen in the department, with feedback from the larger DEIC. Proposals are then taken to the appropriate policy-making or policy-implementing entity (e.g. faculty, department chair, the graduate student organizations). The DEIC welcomes the formation of new groups and is always accepting ideas. The process for how this works is shown in the graphic below.

How to join:

The DEIC welcomes undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, faculty, staff, and other members of the department. Join an existing working group or start your own if you have a new idea to work on. Note that joining a working group means committing to spending real time working on the issue, and we request a commitment of a year, or until that particular project is finished. If you want to help but have only a small amount of time to give, we suggest focusing that time on educating yourself, on sending us suggestions or resources, and especially on participating in departmental events held by the DEIC. Educating ourselves and engaging with our colleagues are essential for making our department inclusive – this is high priority work.

Major ongoing working groups:

Departmental Dialogues

This group organizes intergroup dialogues with the overall goal of achieving new levels of understanding and action within the department. Members have received training in dialogue facilitation from the FSU Center for Leadership and Social Change. All-department dialogues were initiated in spring 2021 and continue approximately once or twice per semester. Leaders: Monica Paniagua Montoya (graduate student), Penelope Ales (graduate student), members: Fatima Alcantara (graduate student), Scott Burgess (faculty), Jane Benoit (graduate student), Hank Bass (faculty), Max Bangs (postdoc) + additional facilitators for each dialogue

Graduate Recruitment

This group is focused on inclusive graduate student recruitment, including developing holistic review reforms for student recruitment and making admissions and program websites more accessible. Lead: Dan Okamoto (faculty). Members: Mike Cortez (faculty), Kim Hughes (faculty), Dan Okamoto (faculty), Erdem Bangi (faculty), Nate Spindel (graduate student)

Reporting Transparency

This group is working to increase reporting transparency within the department to ensure that students, postdocs, faculty, staff, and others within the department are aware of reporting protocols. Members: Katherine Garner (staff), Beth Stroup (faculty), Karen McGinnis (faculty)


This group disseminates information about the DEIC and related topics to the department through a quarterly or semi-annual newsletter. Lead: Melanie Medina (graduate student) Members: Monica Paniagua-Montoya (graduate student), Penelope Ales (graduate student), Jen Kennedy (staff)

Welcome Team

This group plans and hosts welcome events and training opportunities for incoming graduate students to ensure they have support before, during, and after their arrival on campus. Leads: Brittany Kraft (faculty) and Melanie Medina (graduate student). Members: Jane Benoit (graduate student), Johanna Imhoff (faculty)

Hiring or Recruiting Statistics

This group is in need of volunteers interested in reviewing departmental statistics regarding graduate student admissions and faculty hires in relation to underrepresented minority status. Lead: Dan Okamoto (faculty)

Supporting Mental Health/Wellbeing

This group provides resources and support for mental and emotional health of all department members by disseminating information and organizing mental health trainings. Leaders: Emily DuVal (faculty) and Alexa Guerrera (graduate student)

Graduate Mentoring

This group is focused on improving faculty mentoring, clarifying mentor-mentee relations, providing professional development for a variety of careers, and improving student mentoring experiences. This group has designed and implemented a professional development course for graduate students, organizes graduate student and faculty training opportunities, and encourages best practices for mentor-mentee relationships. Lead: Jonathan Dennis Members: Nora Underwood, Jonathan Dennis, Joe Travis, Kay Jones

Undergraduate Inclusion

This group works to improve recruitment, inclusion and success of undergraduates from minority backgrounds. Current projects include collaborating with instructors to develop inclusive teaching materials for Biology 1 and 2,, . Lead: Kevin Dixon (faculty) Members: Alice Winn (faculty), Kay Jones (faculty), Nora Underwood (faculty)

Hiring More Diverse Faculty

This group focuses on increasing inclusive hiring practices by designing searches, recruitment, and interviews to increase success in attracting and hiring diverse faculty. Members of this group serve on faculty search committees. Lead: Tom Houpt (faculty) Members:Kim Hughes (faculty), Dan Okamoto (faculty)

Graduate Course on DEI in STEM

This group is focused on educating graduate students about DEI in STEM, through a recurring course on the topic now held each spring. Leads: Erdem Bangi (faculty) and Jane Benoit (graduate student)

URM/ DEI Reading Group

This group is in need of volunteers interested in organizing and hosting a reading group focused on DEI topics relevant to teaching, mentoring, and underrepresented minority experiences in STEM. Lead: Jane Benoit

Secretarial and Organizational

This group works to ensure that the DEIC runs smoothly, manages the DEIC email and website, acts as liaison between the DEIC and student groups, and fulfills other essential tasks. Members: Brittany Kraft (faculty), Alexa Guerrera (graduate student), Jane Benoit (graduate student)

DEIC steering committee

This group organizes monthly meetings of the DEIC, provides the point of contact for the DEIC, makes sure that working groups continue to function, collects updates from working groups, invites participation by new members, provides feedback and support for working groups, etc. Lead: Nora Underwood (faculty) Members: Dan Okamoto (faculty), Brittany Kraft (faculty), Alexa Guerrera (graduate student), Jane Benoit (graduate student)

Current DEIC members as of fall 2021:

Brittany Kraft, Alexa Guerrera, Jane Benoit, Dan Okamoto, Jonathan Dennis, Alice Winn, Melanie Medina, Monica Paniagua-Montoya, Kay Jones, Erdem Bangi, Mike Cortez, Nate Spindel, Kim Hughes, Jen Kennedy, Penelope Ales, Johanna Imhoff, Emily DuVal, Joe Travis, Kevin Dixon, Tom Houpt, Nora Underwood, Max Bangs, Fatima Alcantara, Hank Bass, Scott Burgess, Katherine Garner, Beth Stroup, Karen McGinnis

Contact: deic@bio.fsu.edu

*Language from the Department of Biological Science's Diversity Statement is adapted from FSU's Strategic Goal III.

Florida State University Diversity & Inclusion Home Page

Feedback and Ideas

Please use this form to share your ideas and concerns about diversity, equity and inclusion within the Department of Biological Science. Feedback will be read by the department's Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee only. Comments can be anonymous, but please include your name if you are willing and able to work on any issues or ideas that you share.