Shane Bierma, PhD Awarded National Science Foundation Grant

Dr. Shane Bierma, a post-doctoral fellow in clinical psychology in the department of psychiatry, was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant as part of a team of researchers from LSU Health New Orleans, University of South Alabama and Auburn University. The research team will investigate student identity and how this shapes retention in the STEM fields at LSU and other Southeastern universities.

The overall goal of the project is to eliminate barriers to retention of students from diverse backgrounds by exploring dynamics of identity in the classroom and inclusivity of the institution.

The researchers will explore how social aspects of active learning environments may impact students who possess one or more identities that have been historically marginalized in science. This research intends to look at the intersectionality of identity and how social interactions among peers and instructors may heighten awareness of social differences for students who identify with multiple marginalized identities, which could lead to reduced sense of belonging, reduced engagement, and ultimately withdrawal from STEM majors and careers.

The results will be used to inform targeted interventions for inclusive pedagogies which will be implemented through faculty training workshops aimed at improving faculty awareness of student identity and how it impacts retention in STEM. These workshops will provide faculty with tools to better manage student-lead discussions and a knowledge of the interpersonal aspects of identity and learning, and our goal is to remove barriers from faculty who may be hesitant to implement active learning approaches where inclusive, substantial student-lead discussions are possible. We hope to improve cultural competency of faculty and staff that we anticipate will ultimately improve student/instructor interactions – with the goal of having educators feel better equipped to connect and engage with all students.

“The NSF is a very prestigious funding organization,” said Dr. Phillip Griffin, the Mollie Wallick Professor and Chief of Psychology said. “We are enormously proud of Dr. Bierma and feel very fortunate to have her here.”