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Diversifying the sciences

Dr. David Laude, the new interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences, shares his vision for increasing diversity and promoting academic achievement.

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David Laude

David Laude 

Dr. David Laude, the new interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences, has spent years as an administrator and professor working to ensure that students are successful in his college. One way he has achieved this, is by spearheading various diversity initiatives.

“In the 15 years I’ve been in the Dean’s office, the work I’ve done is around creating community among students,” Laude said. “Students who feel a part of the school are more likely to stay.”

Laude credits several programs such as the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan, Freshman Research Initiative and Biology Scholars with offering underrepresented students opportunities to learn and engage in the college on a deeper level so that they feel more invested and confident about completing their degrees in academic areas that he said are difficult.

Laude said that a key to future faculty hiring is to help students be successful and expose them to different options like research and graduate school so that they will be in the position to be recruited into the faculty.

“A vast majority of our underrepresented students are in the pre-health professions, but these programs expose them to research initiatives and put them in labs as freshmen,” Laude said. “Across the board the students who participate graduate more quickly, have higher GPAs and gain a greater ability to develop critical thinking skills.”

Shannon Allport, biology junior and former president of the Multicultural Students in Natural Sciences, is one of two students on the college’s Diversity Committee formed by Laude. She said that she felt compelled to get involved as a student leader after learning of the low number of African American faculty in her college. She hopes that Dr. Laude’s new appointment will be a catalyst for change.

“He’s one of the administrators most in touch with students’ needs,” Allport said.

Allport would like to see other college leadership put faculty diversity high on their agendas. Coming from a household where her mother is a dentist and brother a medical student, she found guidance and examples of what she could be, but says not everyone does.

“Getting here is one thing,” Allport said. “I’ve also known a lot of people who have dropped out and if you have a professor that looks like you, instructing you about a career, then the idea of having that career is more tangible. It’s not somebody on television. It’s not a celebrity. It’s someone telling you that you can do it too.”