Mismatch in Perceptions of Success: Investigating Academic Values among Faculty and Doctoral Students

Brauer et al. / Journal of Chemical Education / October 2021

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Many cultural and institutional barriers have prevented chemistry from realizing greater calls for diversity in academia. Though recent work has elucidated how the measures of success used in academia can disadvantage students from underrepresented groups at the undergraduate level, thorough understanding of how success metrics are valued by minoritized students at the graduate level is lacking. Here, the authors use data generated from the UC Berkeley Department of Chemistry’s student-led climate survey to investigate both how graduate students prioritize and how faculty employ common metrics for graduate student success. Results revealed that faculty undervalued metrics preferred by students from underrepresented groups (URGs) in STEM such as underrepresented people of color, women, LGBTQ+ students, and first-generation students. Priorities of students that do not identify as underrepresented displayed no statistically significant differences compared to faculty values. Questions regarding publication record, one of the often-used measures of success in STEM academia, suggest that graduate students, particularly those belonging to URGs, challenge the use of publication record as the primary metric of success in graduate school. These findings highlight some of the ways that definitions of academic success can be exclusionary for graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds and encourage re-envisioning graduate school success in ways that reflect the values of diverse student populations.