Working in UNEION together

The UNEION (UCAR|NCAR Equity and Inclusion) training series has been such a success that the NCAR Office for Diversity, Education & Outreach plans to run a third session in the spring. The program has also spun off a UNEION Journal Club, which meets once a month, as well as an online forum where UNEION graduates can discuss diversity and inclusion issues.

“The sessions have gone so well—it was brilliant how much the cohorts participated, shared, and learned,” said Carolyn Brinkworth, Director of NCAR Diversity, Education and Outreach. “The feedback from the courses has been wonderful, and they said it best: Our scientific excellence depends on the equal participation and inclusion of all of us, with everyone empowered to bring our unique viewpoints to our work. This course really empowers participants to fully support our whole community, including our students and visitors.”


The first UNEION cohort during one of its regular meetings.      

Front row (from left): Silvia Agnona (CISL), Marissa Miller (DEO), Cheryl Harrison (CGD), and Helen Moshak (NCAR Directorate).

Back row (from left): Rebecca Morss (MMM), Esther Brady (CGD), Justin Young (Unidata), Mike Daniels (EOL),  Geoff Cheeseman (NCAR Directorate), Diane Thompson (CGD), David Sundvall (General Counsel), and Carolyn Brinkworth (DEO). (Photo by Rebecca Swisher, ©UCAR.)

The UNEION initiative was designed to help staff learn and talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion in a safe and interactive learning environment. The inaugural session — completed by 18 staff members in the spring of 2015 — was comprised of four intensive training sessions on topics spanning bias and privilege, race, gender, and how to create a workplace environment where everyone can thrive.

UNEION is a grassroots program organized by staff in collaboration with the NCAR Office for Diversity, Education and Outreach (DEO). Early on, Josh Young (Unidata), Mike Daniels (EOL), and Diane Thompson (CGD) approached Carolyn Brinkworth (DEO) to brainstorm about how to create and support a community to talk about diversity, and UNEION was born. Young, Daniels, and Thompson led the sessions for the first cohort, with support from Brinkworth and Marissa Miller (DEO).

Cohort members read articles and listen to podcasts and video clips before each session. In the sessions, they engage in a mix of group exercises and discussions designed to bring out the themes of the readings and relate them to our work and  science community as a whole. One member said she really enjoyed the opportunity to share stories, experiences, struggles, and successes together. Another member said, “UNEION increased my overall knowledge on the issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion and increased my awareness of the concept of privilege.”

Another community member explained, “Educating ourselves about bias and how it affects our organization should be considered part of our mission at NCAR|UCAR and is the key for increasing and sustaining diversity. This is especially true for an organization that focuses on societal effects of climate. Building diversity will only increase the effectiveness of our scientific and outreach efforts as an organization.”

The first two UNEION sessions were so successful, the group is considering a UNEION-Level 2 series in the future.


Jeff Smith, Science Writer and Public Information Officer