Professor of Chemistry Karen Brewer was interviewed by National Public Radio’s Senior Host Robert Siegel on Tuesday, Aug. 23, for an All Things Considered segment titled “Hamilton College Introduces New Diversity Requirement.” Their conversation centered on the mandate that the requirement be fulfilled within a student’s concentration and how that might be accomplished in subject areas not normally associated with issues of inclusion and difference, identity, culture and social class. Brewer was last year’s chair of the College’s Committee on Academic Policy when the requirement was developed.
Explaining the evolution of the requirement, Brewer said that centering it within students’ majors would make it relevant and meaningful to those students for their future goals in the department as well as in their careers. In addressing the requirement’s relevancy to the sciences, she said, “…science depends upon a diversity of perspectives in order to … decide what questions to ask and what approaches to use to answer those very complex questions … science is dependent upon having a variety of perspectives. But also, it's conducted in laboratory groups in industry and government that are becoming more and more and already are very multicultural and multinational. So students thinking about this in the context of sciences is really beneficial to their careers. They'll hopefully be able to work more efficiently and better in teams, show leadership in those teams and hopefully to spot innovation when it's coming from a different perspective.”
In describing what a science class might address, Brewer speculated, “They may look at the history or philosophy of the discipline and how those questions that were being asked were influenced by common social categories, how questions were asked differently and how the different approaches were put into place to answer those questions. Questions that might be asked might include what is the scientific and social definition - distinction of race, for example. Is our science gender and race-blind? Who benefits from medical research and drug trials? So we can look at those from that perspective, and that's where the students are most interested.”