SPS Partners with the National Society of Black Physicists

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Special Feature

SPS Partners with the National Society of Black Physicists

New Joint Membership Program Aims to Promote Listening and Learning


Paul Gueye, Assistant Professor

Hampton University

A few days ago I was reading a very old story about animals in Africa. In the story all of the animals gather under a tree to identify the youngest and, by their logic, smartest animal. The animals born recently raise their hands, and a discussion ensues. Then suddenly a newborn hare screams from atop a branch just as he comes out of his mother! He obviously wins this challenge.

This story reminded me about how we as physicists sometimes get so caught up in the discussion process that we forget to notice the simple details in front of us. Sometimes we need to take the time to see and listen. Let me explain.

I have been the president of the United States–based National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) since 2012. For many years our organization and others in the community have been trying various initiatives to address a fundamental issue, namely, the small number of minority students in physics and the sciences in general. Students who are African American, Hispanic, Native American, and female are going into physics in the United States at a much lower level than one would expect based on their college-aged populations.

Over the past two years I have decided to change my way of thinking about this problem. Amidst the good intentions and great ideas, we too often forget one simple concept that would help us to do good—sometimes we need to stop talking and listen. I realized that our initiatives will not work if they do not appeal to their targeted populations. We need to listen to the students, parents, and communities we want to reach.

NSBP and SPS have many of the same goals. We both work to promote the well-being of students within the scientific community and to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups joining the field of physics. To this end NSBP and SPS are pleased to announce a new joint membership program in which student members of either society can join the other at no cost. We hope this partnership will provide more avenues for us to hear from students about their challenges, needs, and achievements, as well as more opportunities for the physics community to learn and respond in meaningful ways.

Exchanging ideas, listening to one another, and working in teams have always been strengths of the physics community. Why can’t we succeed in reaching out to underrepresented (and all) populations in ways that are meaningful? If we want to address the issue of underrepresented groups in physics, maybe we should take a lesson from the story of the hare—the youngest, smartest animal in that African story—and try to be smart about addressing diversity by seeing our world with a fresh, new perspective. //

The Joint SPS-NSBP Membership Program

The new SPS–NSBP membership agreement enables student members of SPS to join NSBP for free, and student members of NSBP to join SPS for free. The primary way that SPS members can take advantage of this opportunity is by indicating their desire to join NSBP on the SPS online application form when they join or renew. Current student members of SPS can join NSBP by e-mailing their request to sps [at] aip.org. Similarly, NSBP student members can take advantage of this joint membership when they join or renew their NSBP membership, or by e-mailing nsbpchapters [at] nsbp.org.

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