The American Geophysical Union (AGU) recently appointed Scott Sheridan, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Geography and professor in the online Geographic Information Science (GISc) programs, to its inaugural cohort for the Leadership Academy and Network for Diversity and Inclusion in the Geosciences (AGU LANDInG). AGU LANDInG’s Academy is a 2-year commitment supporting its participating Fellows to move from diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) advocacy to DEI leadership through concrete efforts with a focus on evidence-based resources and practices.
Sheridan, who is also a member of the Kent State Strategic Planning Committee, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership Council, and its Anti-Racism Task Force shared that his experiences on these committees have influenced his sense of urgency to address inequality in his field. “We’ve always had a view in Geography that our struggles were discipline-specific,” Sheridan says, “and, while Geography as a whole needs to become more diverse, it clearly needs to have seeds planted at the local level.”
“My main hope is to work to develop program-specific ways to foster the necessary conversations and help spur actions to deal with issues of equity within each unit,” Sheridan said. “While I feel that the university as a whole has been excellent in addressing these issues, when it comes down to the smaller units on campus, I feel that there is much interest in working to improve ourselves, but we struggle to find actions to concretely move forward.”
AGU and the LANDInG Initiative
As the AGU leadership team explained in a recent announcement, the field of earth and space science remains one of the least diverse fields in STEM, “Until diversity is a fundamental feature of scientific excellence, the lack of an equitable, inclusive geoscience community will continue to hamper innovation and discovery,” they shared, “To correct the culture, systematic changes need to come from the community and the institutions that employ earth and space scientists.”
According to AGU, multiple studies document the need for change within the geoscience field. Issues include barriers to accessibility for persons with disabilities; pervasive sexual and gender harassment on campuses and in field research environments; flat trends in racial and ethnic diversity despite decades of consideration; perpetuated myth of meritocracy in awards and recognition practices; ongoing discrimination and unsafe conditions for members of the LGBTQ+ community; and lack of awareness and respect for Indigenous Knowledges and Indigenous Knowledge systems.
AGU LANDInG is the organization’s solution for a lack of a central community for DEI leaders in the geosciences to be able to network, collaborate and learn together. The Academy branch of AGU LANDInG facilitates professional development opportunities for DEI leaders and allows them to build capacity for evidence-based efforts that specifically address the DEI needs of the geoscience community by starting with their local networks and developing their own initiatives. AGU LANDInG is also a Community of Practice (CoP) Network that consists of a virtual platform and a series of in-person events to engage geosciences professionals in DEI work.
Selection for the first class of the Academy was competitive: Sheridan is one out of 12 individuals to be selected while more than 80 people applied. The AGU LANDInG cohort includes geographers, geoscientists, marine conservationists, geochemists and paleoclimatologists and experts from other related disciplines.
About Professor Sheridan
Sheridan, who was appointed as Chairperson of the Department of Geography in 2015, also serves as the editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Biometeorology. His research interests include synoptic climatology, climate change, and bioclimatology. Sheridan’s primary focus has been addressing the problem of heat vulnerability from survey work on heat perception, to the development of over 30 heat-warning systems across the globe, and projections of future vulnerability. He’s also interested in all other aspects of applied climatology, including climate and crime, atmospheric composition, and agriculture.
Make Your Mark on the Geosciences at Kent State
Kent State’s online M.S. in Geographic Information Sciences (GISc) will prepare you to become a trusted expert and catalyst for change in the field. Master technical, analytical and programming skills and customize your degree with healthcare, cyber tech, or environmental analysis knowledge to hone in on the topics that are important to you. Learn from experts like Dr. Sheridan and enter the field ready to improve the global systems that sustain our everyday lives. Talk to an Admissions Advisor to learn more.