By Cheyanne Lewis
In celebration of #BlackinSciComm week, I had the opportunity to chat with Chloe Poston (@ChloePoston on Twitter), a Diversity and Inclusion Practitioner, Communications Expert, and Professional Development Coach.
In addition to earning her Doctorate in Chemistry, she is committed to her diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, and will share how she created a flourishing career doing what she loves, and how she aims to help #SciComm trainers advance their careers.
In celebration of #BlackinSciComm week, I had the opportunity to chat with Chloe Poston (@ChloePoston on Twitter), a Diversity and Inclusion Practitioner, Communications Expert, and Professional Development Coach. In addition to earning her Doctorate in Chemistry, she is committed to her diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, and will share how she created a flourishing career doing what she loves, and how she aims to help #SciComm trainers advance their careers.
Branching into the World of #SciComm
Originally from Monroe, North Carolina, Chloe first got involved in diversity and inclusion work while attending Brown University to earn her Ph.D. In her small cohort, she was the only Black person which was quite the adjustment after coming from Clark Atlanta University, a historically black college (HBCU). This experience is what got her interested in understanding “who does science, and why they do science, and who’s exposed to science.” She was hoping to see that in 20 years time, a single chemistry department will have more than just a singular Black person.
While in graduate school, she was part of a K-12 STEM Education Fellows Program, fully funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). During the years of writing her dissertation, she partnered with a public school teacher in Providence, Rhode Island and taught 9th grade biology once a week for a full school year. She had been so used to talking science with people at a Master’s level, that she quickly had to adjust: “Trying to explain really complex ideas to high school students forced me to figure out how to communicate science.”
For her postdoctoral training, she transitioned into corporate science at Eli Lilly & Co., a 9-5 job with lots of free time. This flexibility gave her time to delve into the world of science policy. She ultimately started a blog called “The Poston Perspective” and started writing pieces on STEM policy that focused primarily on diversity education. The blog later turned into “The Poston Collective”, and she recruited more of her friends to join by writing for the blog as she didn’t want to be the only voice and source of opinions.
There was a point in which her supervisor brought to her attention that she was more passionate about the work she was doing through her blog than her research training. She received open encouragement and ultimately decided to leave her postdoctoral work behind.
How can we actively engage the people of color who are already a part of our network, how can we make sure that it’s a space that is welcoming for them, how can we make sure that out of all the things they have on their list of things to do for any given day, that they’re willing to give the network an hour?
Pursuing Diversity and Equity Work Professionally
After leaving her postdoctoral training, she landed a job working for the NSF through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowship. To her, this was a dream come true as she got to do “hardcore scicomm” for the Directorate of Biological Sciences (BIO) working for the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences. There she wrote research summaries and researcher profiles for congress. Chloe developed another blog to help researchers share the broader impacts of their work with public funders.
This is where she ultimately got into “professional scicomm”. As a secondary project, she served as the Executive Secretary for the Education and Human Resources Directorate. She gained insight into each of the programs and funding mechanisms that were in place to recruit more people of color into science, and ensured that funding was used efficiently.
This work culminated in a big forum at the White House hosted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy where leaders from industry, government, and non-profit spaces were invited to talk about what needed to be done to build diversity.
“I got to stay true to my passion of diversity and inclusion, but also got to sort of build my skills as a science communicator”
A New Chapter
Currently, Chloe is the Director of Strategic Initiatives in the Office of Institutional Diversity at Brown University. Although she enjoyed the experience of working with the government as a policy consultant, she admits that she missed talking about science with other scientists. In order to get back in touch with that part of her identity, she decided to get involved in the SciComm Trainers Network which is dedicated to advancing science communication training. Chloe mentions that the participants come from all walks of life — “some people are researching the best practices in science communication, some people are science communicators themselves, and some people are consultants who go around teaching other people how to do science communication.”
Her role is to meet everyone and build a community where they can readily access resources in order to be successful with science communication training. Participants are encouraged to share their experiences as well, and if they find effective ways to communicate science, they are then able to bounce those ideas off practitioners and ask, “Have you tried this in your actual workshop? Does it work?”
Although Chloe is relatively new to the network, she appreciates their open commitment to inclusion and engagement. And much of what they stand for is clearly expressed in their community charter. They make sure that “all of the work they do is equitable, making sure that people are properly compensated, and making sure that the people that are represented come from diverse backgrounds.”
She believes that the future of this network is extremely bright, and hopes to find ways in which they can be even more inclusive and “help them maintain that core piece of their identity”.
Balancing Recruitment and Retention
As someone who has been doing diversity and equity work for years, Chloe has seen how the approach to recruiting BIPOC has changed over time. She talks about how early recruitment mainly focused on getting as many BIPOC into programs as possible, and that “there wasn’t a lot of thought around ‘once they’re here, what does that mean, and how we do support them, and how do we add value to them and their profession.”
Although recruitment is important, there are a lot of things that must be put in place to ensure that those who do want to join will be properly supported.
“At the SciComm Trainers Network, we’re thinking very intentionally about, before we even think about recruiting, ‘how can we actively engage the people of color who are already a part of our network, how can we make sure that it’s a space that is welcoming for them, how can we make sure that out of all the things they have on their list of things to do for any given day, that they’re willing to give the network an hour?”
Especially with the state of the world, and how often BIPOC are not adequately compensated for the work that they do (either DEI work or simply pay discrepancy), valuing each other’s time is extremely important. This is especially true when it comes to keeping BIPOC within these organizations. For Chloe, “thinking about what the value proposition is for these individuals especially has been at the top of my mind.”
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