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February 12, 2021

“How do we expand our reach not just to other disciplines but also to non-scientists to make it easier to work with stakeholders and those who make policy decisions?”

That was the question put forth by Sarah Bearman, second-year PhD student in the School of Earth and Space Exploration questions during the first reading group meeting of Earth System Science for the Anthropocene, or ESSA. ESSA is a growing network of graduate students, faculty members and practitioners addressing global challenges through a new lens. The developing ESSA initiative at ASU, directed by Nancy Grimm (School of Life Sciences) and Abigail York (School of Human Evolution and Social Change), aims to re-think how we approach graduate training in the Anthropocene.

“Students need a new path to help them prepare for careers and multi-disciplinary research outside of academia,” says Grimm, Regents Professor at ASU. Grimm and York state that the formation of the ESSA network was driven by the need to invoke a new science and graduate training. Starting in Spring 2021, graduate students from different research programs and interests virtually join together to discuss articles about the future of science focusing on five key ideas: collaboration, team science, communication, solutions-driven research and framing transdisciplinary scholarship to explicitly center justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

The ESSA reading group also brings together students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to open up new doors for collaboration and discussion. An engineering PhD student, Iranvaloo, describes the way scientists can engage in different types of knowledge and methodologies, “...there are a lot of tools and approaches in the engineering and the computer vision realm that can aid in how we approach our experimental problems.”

“We need to make spaces that define what mentoring relationships mean to students and their success,” Grimm says, reflecting on her position as a long-time faculty member and graduate student mentor. “It’s telling to find that there are no pre-existing faculty mentoring trainings at ASU or even other universities...if we want to train students then we must also ask faculty to be held to the same standard”. Grimm and York are working to build a community of students and faculty who embody these same principles in ESSA.

If you’re a graduate student, faculty member or practitioner, you can join the ESSA scholars community by contacting essa@asu.edu or follow @ESSA_ASU on Twitter for reading group and networking announcements.