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For some attendees, the most important part of the 2023 ADVANCE Equity in STEM Community Convening (ADVANCE EiSCC) was the chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues in their field. For others, it was learning more about funding opportunities with the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s ADVANCE program. For everyone, the ADVANCE EiSCC offered the opportunity to share information, resources, and strategies about increasing STEM equity work in their programs and institutions.

“This year was my first time attending and I have been telling anyone and everyone about my experience. I have so many take-aways, both personally and professionally, and can honestly say that it was life changing,” according to one attendee.

Since 2019, the NSF-funded ADVANCE EiSCC has served as the convening for NSF ADVANCE grantees in a format that facilitates engagement with change agents within and beyond the NSF ADVANCE community. The ADVANCE EiSCC brings together a variety of change makers from higher education, professional societies, industry, government, and non-profits in an engaged exchange of knowledge, resources, and support to drive systemic change in STEM.

“We are pleased to be able to provide a platform for STEM change makers to share their work and collaborate for greater collective impact,” says Dr. Heather Metcalf, PI of the ARC Network. “We had an amazing lineup of presenters and presentations, and our goal was for every attendee to leave with new ideas, approaches, and connections.”

This year’s 2023 ADVANCE EiSCC took place June 5-7 at the Washington Duke Inn in Durham, North Carolina. The 400 attendees had a wide range of sessions to choose from, including over forty high-five “lightning” talks, symposiums, panel discussions, and plenaries, not to mention over twenty-five posters. The variety of topics offered in the sessions was a highlight for many attendees, one of whom reported that “I'm not faculty, nor am I at an academic institution. I'm part of a society, and there were still many applicable sessions that I attended.”

Attendees also had ample occasion to develop their social and professional networks, which is often a key part of career advancement and success. According to one attendee, the ADVANCE EiSCC “has the best networking opportunities I've ever found at any conference,” while another applauded the “many opportunities for conversations with new people” and a third “was surprised to get some requests for discussions about potential work opportunities, which was great!” 

The event’s keynote address was provided by Dr. Fay Cobb Payton, an industrial and systems engineer, entrepreneur, speaker and consultant. Dr. Payton, who is currently Professor Emeritus and was a Full Professor (with Tenure) of Information Technology/Analytics at North Carolina State University, as well as a former Program Director at the NSF in the Division of Computer and Network Systems, spoke on the difficulty of STEM women checking boxes in a climate of shifting goal posts. 

“Privilege exists, but it's not on parity. Right?” Dr. Payton asked the audience. “Whether it's classism, whether it's racism, whatever it is, privilege exists. And we need to recognize that. We need to say that credentialing and box checking creates a false measure of success.”

Other plenary session topics included “advocating for STEM equity in the current legal landscape,” which featured legal experts from different sectors who discussed the personal and professional implications of the rise in legislation against  DEI, critical race theory, and affirmative action as well as against trans, queer, and BIPOC people and women, and two sessions on “20 years of ADVANCE,” which featured authors from the ADVANCE Journal’s special 20th anniversary issue discussing their work,  and the mutually beneficial collaborations and collisions presented by the ADVANCE program.

Closed captioning and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation during the plenary and keynote sessions and ASL interpretation during the concurrent sessions was provided by Vidman Barber, with funding support from the NSF and AccessADVANCE. According to one attendee, “this is the first conference where I have experienced captioning and ASL provided to all keynote lectures as well as many other important sessions. As a fan of universal design, I really appreciate this.”

Conference materials have been uploaded to the ARC Network Resource Library. You can access all presentations, plenaries, and posters from this year, as well as from the 2019 and 2022 convenings. If you aren't an ARC Network member, it's easy and free to join. And mark your calendars! Next year’s ADVANCE EiSCC will take place June 2-4, 2024.

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