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As Assistant Director of the University of Washington Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity (CERSE), Dr. Cara Margherio conducts research and evaluation to examine the mechanisms which may transform inequities within STEM higher education.

She began working at CERSE as a graduate student, pursuing a sociology PhD and studying equity issues inHIV/AIDS at the intersection of race and gender, an early indication of her interest in STEM and STEM equity work. “It was a positive feedback loop, as the more I did research in this area, the more I saw the need for work in this area and that continues to increase my motivation every day,” she says.

Margherio is a member of the first ARC Network 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.

She had been working with NSF ADVANCE funded programs as an evaluator and researcher for several years when the first call for scholars went out, and recognized immediately that the program would be a good fit for the work that she was pursuing. Her research interests are grounded in critical race and feminist theories and include community cultural wealth, counterspaces, intersectionality, and institutional change.

Margherio’s VVS research focused on mentoring. She examined how the application of an intersectional lens to mentoring research changes the understanding of what needs are met by mentoring and what is necessary for mentoring to be beneficial for all women and non-binary individuals.

“Mentoring is often centered as a key intervention both to support women in STEM as well as a mechanism to transform STEM fields to be more inclusive and equitable, says Margherio.

“Yet mentoring is one area of research in which the experiences of women faculty of color are often subsumed within the larger category of women faculty--few studies of mentoring disaggregate by race and ethnicity.”

A key takeaway from her VVS research she hopes people will recognize is the importance of intersectional frameworks. “Tending to intersectionality and disaggregating our data analyses by different identity groups can reveal patterns and trends that are important not only for building theory, but also practically; it can reveal issues that need our attention in order to improve equity within STEM.”

For example, Margherio has been working for over a year on a campaign to organize a union for research staff at the University of Washington, applying an intersectional lens to the work and identifying a variety of equity issues that must be addressed to improve the working conditions of all researchers at UW.

The VVS program not only provided Margherio with the support to pursue a meta-synthesis project, but also connected her to other researchers and practitioners working to improve equity in STEM, and she “cannot overstate” the value of those network connections. Margherio also discussed her work in a webinar for the ARC Network community.

“As an early-career researcher, the VVS program helped connect me to researchers and practitioners who are passionate about the same issues that I am working on, leading to new collaborations, support networks, and connections with emerging research trends. Everyone I’ve met through the VVS program has been so supportive, and I've established several valuable collaborations from connections made within the program.”
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