CMB Climate


Since 2015, all students who received a Ph.D. are asked to complete a survey administered by the UW-Madison Graduate School to assess their overall experience in CMB. Greater than 90% of CMB students either agreed or strongly agreed with the following statement: “the Intellectual climate of my program is positive”, “the social climate of my program is positive”, and “students in my program are treated with respect by faculty.”

CMB Climate Survey Report – July 2019

The Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) Graduate Program is a community of individuals from many different backgrounds. The program appreciates that a diverse student body and faculty enhance every part of the community. Furthermore, the program recognizes that a positive interpersonal, organizational, and instructional climate strongly influences the success of all research and professional endeavors. Thus, the program aims to foster an environment that supports the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of all students and faculty. To identify opportunities to improve the climate in CMB, a Climate Survey was sent to all CMB students in July 2019. Fifty-six percent of students responded to the survey (41 out of 73). Results of the survey are shown below, followed by conclusions and action items.

Demographic Information: Of the 41 students that responded, 44% identified as male, 27% identified as female, and 29% chose not to respond. Survey respondents identified as 51% Caucasian, 12% not Caucasian, and 37% chose not to respond.

Results of the Survey:

Graph Showing Data about how often students felt Welcome, Respected, Excluded, Safe, Like you Belong

Graph Showing How Often Students Have been able to find someone they feel comfortable studying and socializing with

Pie Chart Showing that 22% of Respondents had personally witnessed bias on campus

Graph Showing that CMB Students Try to Create a Welcome Environment Extremely Often (29%0, Very Often (42%), Sometimes (29%)

Conclusions: While the majority of CMB students feel welcomed, respected, included, safe, and comfortable, and have not personally experienced hostile, harassing, or intimidating behavior, this is not the case for all students. Thus, the program is using these data and comments from individual students to develop action items to improve the climate.

Summary of Comments and Action Items:

Students would like to see more social events within the program because they sometimes feel isolated within their different labs/departments. Some suggested organizing more regular CMB-wide social events, or organizing groups to go to talks together.

Action: We’ve asked the retreat organizers to add time to the student retreat schedule to brainstorm about what format students would like these social events to take. We agree that this is important, especially given how spread out students are across campus, and CMB is happy to support more social events. We need student volunteers to plan more social events. CMB students started a student led BADGRS chapter. CMB held a virtual trivia night. CMB students held a virtual Physiology/CMB meet and greet.

Overall, students reported that the climate in CMB is supportive. However, some students relayed incidents they have experienced or witnessed either in their labs, classes, or other activities that have made the environment feel less inclusive. Twenty-two percent of respondents reported experiencing or witnessing a hostile situation.

Action: CMB held a workshop titled “Building a Culture of Inclusion within CMB” on September 16, 2019 led by Don Gillian-Daniel and Sarah Silverman to address dealing with incidents of bias and ideas and resources to help students approach these issues. All CMB students were encouraged to attend the workshop. We added a 1 hour inclusion workshop to the 2020 new student orientation led by the Multicultural Student Center. We are planning another workshop for Spring 2021 with the Multicultural Student Center.

The campus on a whole is not very diverse. Students acknowledged that this is a larger issue, but stressed the importance of increasing diversity among students in our program. This has been a priority for CMB, and we continue to participate in many activities to improve diversity in our program, especially related to admissions and recruiting.


  1. We have recently begun discussing overcoming biases in admissions with a representative from WISELI at our first Admissions Committee meeting, and the committee discusses at length which criteria to give the most weight. WISELI was unable to present at our 2019 Admissions Committee Meeting; however, we discussed the materials from WISELI with the Admissions Committee. For the 2020 Admissions Committee Meeting, WISELI will provide an online training module along with a follow-up in person presentation.
  2. CMB eliminated the GRE requirement due to evidence the GRE significantly disadvantages certain groups, such as women, students from underrepresented minority groups, and students of lower socioeconomic status.
  3. CMB continues to send students and representatives to minority recruiting conferences including ABRCMS and SACNAS.
  4. CMB has been involved with the Biosciences Opportunities (BOPs) program and in 2019 we co-sponsored a new recruiting initiative that aims to improve recruitment of underrepresented minority students by connecting faculty with prospective students from targeted institutions and geographic areas. This initiative, called the Bioscience Initiative for Recruiting and Networking (BIRN), sends faculty to targeted institutions.
  5. We require all CMB faculty trainers to attend a faculty mentoring workshop offered by WISCIENCE every five years. The workshop is targeted specifically to CMB faculty and encourages faculty to think about working with graduate students with a range of backgrounds and working styles.
  6. The CMB Program continues to partner with the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program to bring highly qualified undergraduate students to conduct research for a summer and expose them to the CMB Program and bioscience community. The CMB Program Manager participated in a panel for these students this year.
  1. CMB adjusted its fee waiver policy to make it easier for under-represented minorities to apply to CMB (“The UW Graduate School offers a limited number of application fee grants to eligible students. If you are not eligible for a fee grant from the UW Graduate School, but are a domestic student who is a member of one of the following groups: African American/Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Laotian, Hmong, Native Hawaiian, or Other Pacific Islander, the CMB Program will provide you will a fee waiver code that will cover the cost of your application fee. Please contact at least one week before the application deadline to receive a fee waiver code.”)
  2. CMB students and faculty are forming a DEIC (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee). One member of the DEIC will be a voting member on the CMB Coordinating Committee.