George Mason University’s Padmanabhan Seshaiyer was recently named the winner of the 2022 Inclusivity Award presented by the Mathematics and Computer Sciences Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR).
Seshaiyer, a professor of mathematics within the College of Science, called the recognition of his efforts to achieve greater inclusion in STEM “very satisfying.”
“This award helps to recognize my commitment to continuously drive forward and practicing positive change across all teams and organizations I work with, bringing inclusion to the next level for ourselves and the students we serve,” he said. “I am happy that I am able to continue to create inclusive and equitable opportunities that help to contribute to both Mason's inclusive mission and purpose as well as the broader Mathematics and Computer Science Community.”
The Inclusivity Award is bestowed annually to a member who has shown excellence and sustainable work to broaden access to mathematics and/or computer science, with a focus on implementation of real-world research projects for undergraduate students, according to the CUR website. A desirable contribution would be one that influences the community in a significant and positive way on a national scale, or has the potential do so, especially engaging a wider audience, similar to the National Science Foundation’s broader impacts.
“Dr. Seshaiyer is such a distinguished researcher and an outstanding scholar,” said Haseeb A. Kazi, the chair of the CUR’s mathematics and computer science division. “We are so very much proud and fortunate to have him as a worthy colleague in our division!”
Seshaiyer has long worked to promote inclusion efforts in STEM that create safe environments where students and faculty can contribute diverse perspectives.
His Project MOST (Mason Outreach in STEM for Teachers) helped establish a new generation of K-12 teacher leaders who help disseminate best practices in integrated STEM education to improve student learning. The program educates teacher participants about the learning characteristics of underrepresented populations, awareness of cultural differences, understanding of students with multiple learning styles, and the use of equitable and non-biased assessments. It also has helped teachers to recognize their own biases, enlightening them about local communities, and recognizing how talents appear in various cultures. Project MOST also helped create an inclusive STEM curriculum to provide effective pedagogical and instructional approaches through culturally responsive teaching, learning materials, STEM-lab activities to support the learning by doing, performance-based assessments that are both formative and summative.
“This helps to increase innovation, productivity, higher likelihood of STEM success, which in turn helps to promote economic growth and STEM competitiveness,” Seshaiyer said. “While the number of people from under-represented groups in the STEM workforce has grown over the past decade, I strongly believe that STEM programs that are designed to be inclusive will help with much faster increases that are greatly needed for the STEM workforce to be representative of the U.S. population in the next decade.”
Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, the dean of the College of Science, lauded Seshaiyer for his efforts.
“The work of promoting social justice is not easy,” said Miralles-Wilhelm, “yet it is vitally important and we appreciate Padhu for his efforts to establish a number of the college’s access, justice, equity, diversity and inclusion-focused outreach efforts.”
The Mathematics and Computer Sciences Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research supports research in mathematics, computer science, and associated disciplines of informatics, cybersecurity, data science, statistics and actuarial science.