The IDEEAS Working Group at Cornell University: A New Framework of Collective Leadership for Promoting Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Geosciences


If the university can be thought of as an incubator for ideas and thought leadership, then each department is a learning ecosystem unto itself. The IDEEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences) Working Group formed organically in Cornell’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences department as a grassroots group with a desire to improve the department ecosystem. Self-selected from the full cross-section of the department, our members comprise students, staff, researchers, faculty, and emeriti. IDEEAS is a non-hierarchical group within the very hierarchical setting of academia, and our work provides a model for disrupting traditional power structures while leveraging their influence to reimagine how an academic unit could and should function. IDEEAS is not a committee; we are a collective. We believe that, irrespective of rank or role, every member of the department community has the capacity to practice leadership. As such, we lead by action. Each IDEEAS project or initiative is organized around an action team, who collectively carry out a community-informed vision of the culture we would like to co-create with the rest of the department. Our commitment to collective leadership empowers constituencies (e.g., students, non-academic staff, post-docs) who have traditionally lacked a pathway to provide input or participate in department-level decision making. IDEEAS is developing formal channels of communication between the group and department leadership in an effort to develop a sustainable ecosystem that will outlive its founders. IDEEAS events combine community building and intentional learning opportunities to promote critical reflection and foster connections. Events included a well-attended kickoff party with facilitated conversation that drew 56 attendees (~40% of the department), and community conversations about implicit bias and structural racism. IDEEAS organizers have been critically responsive during ongoing COVID19 isolation, providing numerous opportunities for social connection and using the disruption as a catalyst to cultivate connection and build community resilience that will outlast the pandemic. We invite discussion and collaboration with those engaged in similar justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion work in the geosciences.

Creating Community in EAS

Learn more about IDEEAS!