Spring 2018 iMCB: A New Graduate Student Program

MCB Giving Back: Inclusive MCB (iMCB)
By Kirsten Mickelwait

Lisa Eshun Wilson and Dean Botchan
Lisa Eshun-Wilson discusses her plans for iMCB with Dean of Biological Sciences Michael Botchan.

UC Berkeley has always been ahead of the times. Since the beginning, we’ve led the way, from social justice to innovation. Students, postdocs, and faculty are drawn to Berkeley from around the globe, bringing their diverse cultures and ideas with them. And diversity takes work — creating an inclusive environment doesn’t happen organically. In the STEM fields alone, women and minorities frequently face implicit biases, microaggressions, and not-so-microaggressions, even at an enlightened institution like Berkeley. These experiences leave people feeling marginalized, isolated, and targeted. MCB recognizes the importance of a diverse community and is committed to getting the mix right with its inclusion efforts. Lisa Eshun-Wilson — a Czech-Ghanaian Norwegian-American and a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Eva Nogales — appreciates the need to create a climate in which everyone is empowered to do their best and aspires to expand upon MCB’s current inclusion efforts.

Eshun-Wilson is aware that there are many excellent studentled programs for Under-Represented Minorities (URMs). But because they’re not integrated into the academic schedule, they often require more time than many grad students can afford. What if MCB could offer an in-house mentoring and training program that would familiarize new graduate students with diversity and inclusion resources before the academic year even begins? Eshun-Wilson drafted a grant proposal, thinking the idea might become a reality within a few years. But the response was so positive, she was asked to launch the new program immediately.

Current Post Doc and Graduate Student Liason group
iMCB's first Graduate Student (GSL) and Postdoc Liasons. Left to right: A. King Cada (GSL, Hurley Lab), Christopher Duncan-Lewis (GSL, Glaunsinger Lab), Michelle Antoine (Postdoc Liason, Feldman Lab) and Jingxun Chen (GSL, Ünal Lab)

Thus was born inclusive MCB (iMCB) , which will offer intensive mentoring and community-building. It will host an annual three-day pre-orientation program in August that will include seminars, student panels, private lab tours, and a teambuilding activity in San Francisco. Throughout the year, students from all backgrounds can meet one-on-one with mentors or in groups to talk about any challenges they’re facing, from financial pressures to grant-writing. You needn’t be a URM to participate.

Eshun-Wilson, a recipient of National Science Foundation and Ford Foundation fellowships, says that remarkable mentoring from Professor Nogales has helped her to succeed and inspired her to pay it forward. “I’ve been very fortunate to have an incredibly supportive PI,” she says, but not all grad students are so lucky. “Not having the proper resources or a safe place to vent can affect your self-esteem and even academic performance. With an increased culture of inclusion and support, we can all become resilient, more courageous scientists.”

For more information about iMCB, visit their website or contact the Equity Committee at mcb_diversity@berkeley.edu.

Diversity Characters