University of Minnesota Duluth biology professor awarded $10,000 for equity efforts

The JEDI award money will be used to house students conducting marine biology research.

University of Minnesota Duluth biology professor Allen Mensinger received the JEDI Award for his equity efforts in the sciences.
Contributed / University of Minnesota Duluth
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DULUTH — A University of Minnesota Duluth biology professor, Allen Mensinger, was awarded $10,000 to further his equity efforts for higher education STEM students.

Mensinger will take two diverse students to the marine biology lab in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, for three months in the summer. The $10,000 will be used for student housing in Massachusetts as they continue their marine biology research.

The Justice, Equity and Inclusion Award is awarded to University of Minnesota faculty members who exhibit leadership and service to advance justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in their field of study.

“I was very pleased and excited to get the award,” Mensinger said. “I’m going to be able to use the funds to support diversity for both graduate and undergraduate research.”

Mensinger said the award is recognition for a goal he has tried to accomplish for years.


“I just like to make sure the playing field is level for everything,” he said. “There are major hurdles that various groups have to overcome in science.”

One of Mensinger’s graduate students, Maya Enriquez, said she has always seen Mensinger put his actions where his words are in his equity efforts.

“He always makes sure students are involved in projects in the lab," she said. "He encourages students and helps them get grants to go to conferences. I’ve been to two national conferences because of him.”

Financial barriers to research opportunities and resource exposure are common obstacles underrepresented students face, Enriquez said.

“I think a lot of the challenges have to do with not really knowing what opportunities exist or how to go about everything. There are so many steps that aren’t super self-evident unless you’ve been in that career for a long time,” Enriquez said. “Al was good at being transparent about what those steps are and how to better your career in the sciences in ways I don’t think I’d be able to do alone.”

Plenty of people talk about the issues underrepresented students face, but not many are willing to “do the work,” like Mensinger, Enriquez said.

Enriquez said Mensinger connected her with other women in science, helped her attend conferences, and consistently introduced her to grants for financial support.

“The graduate programs are allowed one diversity fellowship per year, and I don’t think that’s sufficient. We lose many good students because other institutions can provide funding, fellowships, and resources where we are just limited to one scholarship per year,” Mensinger said.


Mensinger said he'll continue to advocate for more fellowships and scholarships.

“I believe the best science can be done when everyone has equal opportunity to get all the resources everyone else has," he said.

A seven-year legal battle appears near the end, as a federal appeals court ruled against Jen Banford's bid to revive her discrimination case.

Abigael Smith graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a double major in journalism and English and a minor in Digital Writing, Literature, and Design.
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