UNM Biology Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Anti-bias (IDEA) Committee

The charge of this committee is to ensure that those of all backgrounds and intellectual perspectives are welcome in our department, to make all opportunities for students and scholars equitable, and to foster community activities that oppose racism, sexism, and other forms of inequality. 

Our Goals

  • Evaluate and monitor the departmental climate and potential obstacles to IDEA
  • Identify and propose recommendations, actions, and policies for IDEA at the level of undergraduate education, graduate education, faculty and staff recruitment and development
  • Work with engaged faculty and students to follow through on implementation of the proposed actions
  • Biennially, assess progress on the development and implementation of action items and report to the department

Questions or concerns? 

IDEA Committee Members

  • Joe Cook, chair (he/him/his/él), Distinguished Professor of Biology
  • Don Natvig (he/him/his), Professor of Biology
  • Kelly Howe (she/her), Principal Lecturer, Biology Undergraduate Society (BUGS) Advisor
  • Alex Webster (she/her), Assistant Professor of Biology
  • Shannon Withycombe (she/her), Associate Professor of History
  • Megan Barela Hudgell (she/her/they/them), Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Jordan Sampson (they/them), Ph.D. Student, BGSA representative
  • Melissa Sanchez (she/her), Sr. Research Scientist and manager of the Molecular Biology Facility
  • Tyler Clayshulte (he/him/his), Graduate Program Coordinator, Biology Department 

Action Items


  • Established the Graduate Advocacy Committee in 2021–2022 and formalized it starting in Fall 2022.
  • Drafted new language for inclusion in the forthcoming revised grad handbook that outlines the process for changing advisors and “Mastering out” with an MSII degree in the event that an advisor/advisee relationship sours. We also drafted new language for inclusion in grad offer letters that acknowledges the process to switch advisors. The handbook statement has not seen the light of day yet, but the offer letters were amended starting in March/April 2023.
  •  After discussion in committee, initiated a new seminar (for grads and undergrads) called Readings in STEM DEI. First held in Spring 2023 (see reading list) and again in Spring 2024.
  •  Established two gender neutral bathrooms in Castetter.


  • Collated information on Departmental DEI efforts through IDEA Committee (2021-2023) for the Graduate TAs as Change Agents for Equitable Student Experience Project (Sloan Foundation Funding)
    • This project aims to: 1) to provide training to graduate students and facilitate their implementation of classroom practices proven to increase equity in student experience, 2) to engage faculty supervisors in supporting of GTAs who are implementing inclusive teaching practices and in collaborating with GTAs on updating Syllabi and course policies to increase equity in student experience, 3) initiate equity improvement projects designed to foster a more inclusive department climate and graduate student experience.
  • Identifying strategies to increase graduate student diversity.
  • Identifying strategies to attract diverse candidates for Biology tenure track positions.
  • Building departmental and administrative support for an Indigenous STEM (ISTEM) training program at UNM.
  • Building out IDEA webpages, networks, and resources
  • Conducting formal climate surveys (undergrads, grad, postdocs, faculty)
  • Identifying and reinforcing positive initiatives
  • Implementing change and proactive mitigation