Morgan Cole, Elena Vasquez Lead First Friday Workshop

February 14, 2023

 Morgan Cole on left, Elena Vazquez on right

Two physics majors, Morgan Cole (left) and Elena Vasquez (right) designed a First Friday Workshop that was held on February 3. They based their workshop on the concept that a student’s sense of belonging in the department is a significant factor in their pursuing a physics degree. They brought in four panelists, one physics major, one astrophysics major, and two students who left the major after experiences that turned them off to physics and the department.

These were the suggestions that came out of the panel discussion:

  • Acknowledge class difficulty/inequality of experience (especially day 1 of freshman classes)
  1. Keep in mind that students that have not been exposed to a tool, or a concept before are no less intelligent. They may just need an extra hand to gain the experience they need.
  2. Share anecdotes about your own school experiences where you may have struggled - Read more about "humanizing stem" in our Community Principles Handbook (page 3 under "We Value Every Person")
  3. Refrain from using demeaning language like “this is easy/trivial, etc.”
  • Refer students to tutoring/resources/organizations (academic and social) - Orgs like SPS, SWPS, NSBP/NSHP/APS Committees (these also offer great networking!)
  • Honor DSP accommodations. Actively ask students about how you can meet their access needs rather than doing the bare legal minimum (or not even that)

The workshop was attended widely by faculty, postdocs, grad students, undergrads and staff.

First Friday Workshops were launched in October 2020 as a forum to bring together the entire physics community in dialogue about our role as a community in dismantling racism and working toward inclusivity in STEM.

Morgan Cole a 4th year major in Physics and Astrophysics, minoring in Math and Science Education. She is the Equity and Inclusion Chair for the Society of Physics Students' Berkeley chapter.

Elena Vasquez is a fourth year major in Physics and Applied Math. She is President of the Society of Physics Students' Berkeley chapter. She has had a pivotal role in the Discovery Arc program, helping to form scholar "families" for Physics and Astronomy. Read more about Elena's role in the the Discovery Arc program in the 2023 issue of Berkeley Physics magazine.