Dr. Allison Mattheis is an associate professor in the Division of Applied and Advanced Studies in Education at California State University Los Angeles, where she teaches courses in qualitative research methods and sociopolitical contexts of education. Mattheis collaborates with STEM colleagues on research and advocacy projects related to LGBTQIA+ identities.
In her role as a member of the ADVANCEGeo project, working to reduce harassment and discrimination in the Geosciences, she has worked on developing action-oriented steps to promote intersectional understandings of how oppression operates to exclude people from STEM fields, and develop strategies to try to counter these forces to open up opportunities for people from all backgrounds and identities.
Mattheis is a member of the second Virtual Visiting Scholar (VVS) cohort. The VVS program provides a unique opportunity for select scholars across disciplines to pursue research meta-analysis, synthesis, and big data curation on topics crucial to STEM faculty equity.
Mattheis saw the VVS program as a way to better get to know the discipline-based education research, to learn more about STEM education at higher education levels, and to engage in a larger scale integrative analysis of literature. “Having space to focus so deeply on this project was a wonderful opportunity that I wouldn't have otherwise had access to given the nature of my job,” she says.
For her VVS research, Mattheis looked at understandings of gender in STEM higher education research. Despite decades of research that document disparities in STEM fields (especially around race and gender), interventions haven't had the widespread impact that people hope for. Higher education is a highly influential site of socialization and contributes greatly to an understanding of what it means to be a STEM professional or academic, and Mattheis believes it is important to understand what knowledge has been gained through research in this area. Mattheis also discussed her work in a webinar for the ARC Network community.
“Efforts to increase the representation of women in STEM fields have disproportionately benefited white women without having the same positive impacts for women of color and other minoritized groups,” she says. “There is also a growing body of work about gender identities outside the binary, and overly narrow understandings of gender reduce possibilities for expression for all STEM professionals.”
Mattheis’ interest in STEM and STEM equity work goes back a long way. She was a middle school science teacher for eight years before moving into academia, and collaborated on the Queer in STEM project while she was finishing my Ph.D. in educational policy and leadership. “Through that project I've been fortunate to connect with and learn from so many queer and trans STEM folks, which has given me additional perspective on the need for advocacy in these spaces to expand how diversity is understood and embraced,” she says.”
She hopes that higher education STEM researchers will come away from her research with the understanding that they should consider how they collect demographic data when conducting research.
“At a deeper level, I hope we can all continue to question, challenge, and expand our own assumptions about gender and how it impacts learning, teaching, and other work in STEM fields.”