ASU associate professor named 2020 LGBTQ+ Educator of the Year


Sara Brownell

Sara Brownell

|

Sara Brownell, an associate professor of undergraduate biology in Arizona State University's School of Life Sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has been named the 2020 LGBTQ+ Educator of the Year by the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals.

Brownell’s research, leadership and personal commitment to improving science education, especially for underrepresented minorities, led to the organization’s recognition.

“I struggled accepting my own identity for such a long time that it is surreal to go from making every effort to hide it to being formally recognized for it,” Brownell said. “It is such a privilege to be able to be a role model and mentor for the next generation of LGBTQ+ students to hopefully make their own journeys easier.”

Brownell’s original academic focus was on neuroscience research; however; her postdoctoral research mentor inspired her to pursue a path in undergraduate biology education. Through that experience, Brownell quickly realized the need for diversification in science education and has since committed her work to those efforts.

One of her studies looks at how active learning classrooms present challenges for LGBTQ+ students. Unlike a traditional lecture classroom, students have to interact with one another — a notion that often makes LGBTQ+ students feel like they have to “come out” to their peers while working in small groups, according to the study. Alternatively, though, Brownell’s research found that active learning classrooms may benefit LGBTQ+ students by giving them more opportunities to work with like-minded individuals.

Brownell said, “It is amazing that I can choose to work on issues related to the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals in biology and systematically identity ways to make biology classrooms more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students.”

Brownell is not only setting examples through her research, she’s doing it in her classroom — every semester — by coming out to her students on the first day of class. In a second study, Brownell looks at the impacts and reasons why LGBTQ+ biology instructors decide to reveal their identities to their students. For Brownell, it’s a privilege to share her identity with the next generation of LGBTQ+ students. She hopes her actions will help LGBTQ+ students feel more comfortable and accepted in the classroom.

More Science and technology

 

Emily Williamson carries the gonfalon for the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence down an aisle in a crowded auditorium full of seated graduates

Computer science school looks forward on heels of record-breaking graduation season

This spring, at two packed convocation ceremonies, a crowd of newly minted engineers ebulliently cheered under a rain of…

Large group of people pose for a photo at the top of steps leading up to an outdoor building at the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology campus.

Emerging machine-learning expert leads Kenya AI workshop

What if we already gather all the data we need to help us prepare for disasters, better plan our urban environments and protect…

Galaxy PJ0116-24, known as an Einstein ring

Telescopes in Atacama Desert capture extreme starburst galaxy warped into fiery ring

Ten billion years in the past, a rare population of extreme galaxies formed stars at rates more than 1,000 times faster than our…