Illinois Public Media brings #BlackScienceMatters to wider audience

December 05, 2016
Illustration of University of Illinois Alma Mater with faces of all eight subjects in the series.

Illinois Public Media brings #BlackScienceMatters to a wider audience via WILL-TV broadcast platforms and social media channels. This is a series of eight short films produced by students of the College of Media at University of Illinois under the leadership of journalism professor Charles "Stretch" Ledford.

The project examines the larger pervasive national issue of the severe underrepresentation of African-Americans in the sciences through the lens of individuals’ experiences within University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign community.

“This is not just a cultural or sociological problem, it is a problem that qualitatively negatively impacts the level scientific research and advancement in the United States,” said Ledford.

According the U.S. Department of Education: From 2008 to 2013, African-Americans received just 7.6 percent of all STEM bachelor's degrees and 4.5 percent of doctorates in STEM. In 2011, 11 percent of the workforce was black, while 6 percent of STEM workers were black (up from 2 percent in 1970).

“As a visual journalism professor, I believe that data—like those reflecting the relative number of science and engineering degrees awarded to blacks in comparison to other demographic groups—is given full meaning only as it is shown to impact actual living human beings,” continued Ledford. “Without expository, experiential human stories to animate and empower it, data is lifeless, dull and impotent.”

And Ledford believes #BlackScienceMatters may be the only place one can find a variety of voices addressing the issue.

“We were thrilled to work with the College of Media to bring these stories about the black experience in the sciences to a broader audience. Key to the Illinois Public Media mission is to present the voices of underrepresented communities, to reflect the interests and concerns of a diverse society, and to spark conversation and positive change,” said Moss Bresnahan, CEO and president of Illinois Public Media.

Viewers first saw the videos, which were debuted one at a time, on Illinois Public Media’s Facebook page back in September of 2016. Now the series is available on WILL-TV as interstitial video, via Illinois Public Media's online video portal, via over-the-top devices (e.g. AppleTV, Roku, etc) using the PBS app, and on Illinois Public Media’s website.

Here is a complete listing of the #BlackScienceMatters series, in the order in which the videos were released on Illinois Public Media’s Facebook:

Booted, Then Back: Poor grades forced University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign undergraduate Temitayo Ade-Oshifogun out of the College of Engineering. The mentorship of a college dean led to Ade-Oshifogun earning all A's at another university and eventually a degree in electrical engineering from Illinois. (Produced by Illinois journalism student Christine La)

A Black Female PhD: Still a Novelty in 2015: In May 2015, Yemaya Bordain became the first black woman to earn a PhD in electrical and computer engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Bordain, now an engineer at Intel, describes her experience as the only black woman in her department. (Produced by Illinois journalism student Eli Murray)

A Drop in the Desert: Shareefah Williams, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Engineering undergraduate, tells how the National Society of Black Engineers provides nurturing and mentorship to students of color at Illinois and nationwide. (Produced by Illinois journalism student Teryn Payne)

If Not Here, Then Where? Chineze Ifeoma Okosi, an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, explains her belief that a diverse campus is not necessarily an inclusive campus. (Produced by Illinois journalism student Tyler Davis)

Against the Odds: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign industrial engineering major Kyra Grant shares a moment when she realizes that "it's not a bad thing to always be the only black face in the crowd. (Produced by Illinois journalism student Christine La)

I Quit: Jeremy Clayborn was an engineering student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When experience on a summer internship caused him to realize that he is "not an engineer" he quit school to pursue his dream - a career in music. (Produced by Illinois journalism student Ava Kelley and Illinois industrial engineering student Griffin Tucker)

Do the Right Thing: Two deans of University of the Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Engineering discuss what Illinois is doing right, and what it could do better, as a thought leader facing this pervasive national problem. (Produced by Illinois Journalism student Tyler Davis)

Building a Pipeline: Through outreach to local elementary schools in Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois' St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy demonstrates one possible, yet partial, way to widen the narrow pipeline of young black students entering the sciences. (Produced by Illinois journalism student Taylor Lucero)

Visit the main #BlackScienceMatters website, and follow #BlackScienceMatters on Twitter (@BlkScienceMatrs) and Instagram (@blacksciencematters).

Black Science Matters: Series Overview