Academic Orbits and Orbital Drag

When an institution admits a student to their program or hires a new faculty member, they are inviting these individuals into the orbit of that program.  Every institution has orbital dynamics that must be skillfully navigated in order to be successful at that institution.  Opposing forces can degrade the orbit of a promising scholar in STEM and without correction, a scholar can fall into the institution’s central black hole as described in “Dark Matters: Metaphorical Black Holes That Affect Underrepresentation In Engineering“:


“Clearly, there are different kinds of drag.  Scientific or technical drag due to failed experiments, coding errors, hardware bugs or even difficulties with some advanced concepts are to be expected.  In our metaphor, we are concerned with the drag associated with the marginalization of a student or faculty member based on visible characteristics, resulting in their isolation.  The drag encountered by diverse scholars associated with micro-aggressions and implicit bias occur in this outer orbit.  This drag is in addition to the technical drag of an engineering program and can cause the most talented diverse student or faculty member to fall out of orbit and toward the departmental black hole.”


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