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Theodore Hodapp, APS Director of Education and Diversity
In 2011, the leadership of the Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics approached the APS to ask if we could help them achieve their goals for reaching women in physics through their successful model of distributed conferences. I am happy to say that attendance has more than tripled from 400 in 2011 to about 1300 in 2016. The conferences remain locally organized and staffed giving many women (especially undergraduates) a chance to feel direct ownership in improving the participation of women in physics. The continued growth of these conferences, with the support of the NSF and Department of Energy has also allowed the APS to get a better handle on how such events impact choices made by women as they pursue physics. Plans are already in motion for 9 sites in 2017 as well as programs copied from this model in Canada and the UK.
Over the past 2 years the APS and American Association of Physics Teachers have been working with a prestigious group of physicists in industry, academia and national labs to provide a review of how the current undergraduate physics curriculum prepares students for their careers (Joint Task Force on Undergraduate Physics Programs). Not surprisingly, current programs predominantly focus on preparation for academic careers (it worked for us, didn’t it?), while the majority of physics undergraduates will likely take a job with the word “Engineer” in the title. The report is due out later this summer, and it will serve as the design document for the next phase of thinking about curricular design and review when APS begins to develop a “best- practices” document for undergraduate programs – an effort spearheaded by the Committee on Education and approved recently by the APS Council. Stay tuned for details, but we expect a 2- year development cycle for this document and the process to update it moving forward.
Also coming shortly is a report from the Ad Hoc Committee on LGBT Issues (C-LGBT). C- LGBT was charged by Kate Kirby (APS CEO) in 2014 to provide recommendations to help the APS create a more inclusive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) physicists. The report will be released on March 1 (the full text will be available on the APS website) and C-LGBT will hold a session at the March Meeting to discuss the findings and recommendations. The committee undertook one of the most comprehensive studies to date of the climate experienced by LGBT physicists, and the report details specific challenges often faced by LGBT individuals who study and work in physics. Our hope is that recommendations put forward in this report will help to build a more inclusive physics community where everyone can find a welcoming place to study and practice physics.