In 1989 the ASLO Board of Directors formally recognized the need to increase the diversity of the ASLO membership and the aquatic sciences profession. The following year the Committee on Underrepresented Minorities in the Limnology and Oceanography, in conjunction with Hampton University and the National Science Foundation, developed a program to bring students from underrepresented groups to participate in annual ASLO meetings. That program is now called the ASLO Multicultural Program.
The MAS program was initiated in 2001 by Dr. Susan Weiler to establish a database and electronic resources to link minority students interested in the aquatic sciences and to enhance their participation in aquatic science community activities and careers. As with any ongoing initiative, the MAS program does not stand alone. It was not built by any one person. It is a culmination of the efforts of many individuals who have worked tirelessly, often as volunteers and without any formal recognition, to enhance the participation of underrepresented minorities across the aquatic sciences. Many other programs are highlighted on the following pages. We want this resource to be as complete as possible. Please send additions to Dr. Benjamin Cuker. On behalf of ASLO, we welcome the entire aquatic science community to take part in the MAS initiative.
The program uses the opportunities presented by ASLO meetings to develop cohorts of; informed, motivated, experienced, and connected students from under-represented groups. To facilitate their entry into the ASLO community, the program brings the students through a series of 4 overlapping steps; 1. The development of group identity, 2. Affiliation with a "meeting-mentor," and small peer-circle, 3. Affirmation by peers, 4. Affiliation with other non-ASLOMP students and regular ASLO members.
Each program begins on the weekend preceding the start of the regular ASLO meetings. We start with an opening dinner on Saturday evening that features a keynote address by luminaries in the field and welcoming remarks from the ASLO President. The next day we take a fieldtrip to a local aquatic system and hold a workshop on aspects of career and skill development. After that, the students meet their assigned "meeting-mentors" to plan their week with the aid of a tailored workbook. The "meeting-mentors" consists of about a dozen regular ASLO members who volunteer their time to work with the students. Many of the students present their own work in a special student symposium, held during the concurrent sessions. ASLO provides a year of free Society membership for the students, including electronic subscription to Limnology and Oceanography.
The students all stay in the same hotel and take their meals together. This builds unity within the eclectic mix of students, and allows dinner guests to address the students about various opportunities, such as internships, graduate schools, and work. This setting and the various activities helps the students develop affinities with other minority students, thus gaining peer affirmation that instills the confidence needed for them to join the greater network of aquatic scientists. Professional role models and near-peer mentoring by graduate students and the "meeting mentors" also facilitates this process.
The ASLOMP students attend all of the ASLO social events and student oriented functions, further building contacts with individuals outside of the program.
The program began at the 1990 summer meetings at the College of William and Mary with a small pilot grant from NSF. At that first meeting, 24 undergraduates and only 1 graduate student attended, none of whom had presentations to give. Within a few years attendance grew to about 65 students per meeting. Now almost all participants give presentations, and the group displays a strong gender and ethnic balance (57% African American, 30% Hispanic, 7% Native American, 4% Pacific Islander; 64% Female, 36% Male; 72% undergraduate, 28% graduate student). Between 1990 and 2007, 599 different students participated in the program, coming from 148 different institutions. About 40% of the participants return at least once.
At least 26% of the participants earned graduate degrees thus far. Several former participants that earned Ph.D.s now serve as mentors in the effort. Two participants who completed PhDs, Christina Takacs and Letise Houser served terms on the ASLO Board of Directors (BOD) as student representatives.
Profiles of Minority Aquatic Scientists
The Profiles section highlights individual achievements and perspectives with a goal of identifying minority mentors, role models, and established professionals.
Resources concerning minorities in the aquatic sciences, including websites dealing with government, academic, and other organizations; academic and other programs; and publications.
ASLO-Hampton University Minorities in the Aquatic Sciences Project
The ASLO/Hampton University project is organized by Dr. Benjamin Cuker of Hampton University. The Program is centered on a workshop held in conjunction with the ASLO annual meeting. This link provides information and application forms. Dr. Cuker also organizes MAST - Multicultural students At Sea Together. MAST involves a three-week cruise on the Chesapeake Bay where participants study marine science, marine policy, the heritage of African Americans and Native Americans on the Bay and their contributions to the maritime world, and sailing.
For further information contact
Benjamin Cuker, Ph.D.
Professor of Marine Science
Hampton, VA 23668
ph. 757-727-5884, fax 5740
MAS is sponsored by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO).