New LSC ethnic studies course on culturally responsive science communication fosters more informed outreach in a multicultural society

In the ever-changing landscape of scientific advancements, creating effective science communication for all people is crucial. Enter LSC 480: Culturally Responsive Science Communication—an ethnic studies course designed to equip students with the tools to foster equity and cultural competence.

LSC Professor Bret Shaw.

Led by LSC Professor Bret Shaw, LSC 480 addresses pressing questions and explores innovative approaches to making science more accessible to the broader community. The course focuses on participatory research methods and critically examines approaches to science communication that do not prioritize community engagement and understanding of different worldviews and lived experiences. This sets the stage for a comprehensive understanding of culturally responsive science communication.

This three-credit course welcomes students from various majors, fostering a diverse mix of perspectives from science communication outreach initiatives designed to reach different populations. LSC 480 offers opportunities for students to engage with professionals and communities working to achieve culturally responsive science communication, providing a holistic view of its applications in health, agriculture, and environmental contexts. The course also offers the opportunity to work on a real-world project providing hands-on experience to address the challenges and opportunities students may encounter in their future careers.

LSC 480 offers students a unique opportunity to explore the complexities of science communication in diverse cultural settings. “The course aims to empower students with the skills to co-create science communication strategies that resonate with different communities, fostering more inclusive approaches to science communication,” says Shaw. Since we are all shaped by the families and culture we grew up in, the goal of the course is to increase students’ ability to communicate more effectively with people from different backgrounds.

Moreover, LSC 480 aligns with the university’s commitment to diversity by fulfilling the ethnic studies requirement for all UW-Madison students. This underscores the course’s importance in providing students with a comprehensive understanding of cultural competence in science communication. Additionally, LSC 480 counts not only as a course for the major but also toward the science communication certificate.

Shaw highlighted the course’s focus on cultural competence, stating, “Intercultural competence is essential to producing effective science communication in the workplace.” LSC 480 aims to instill in students the ability to engage with people from different cultures, backgrounds, and belief systems, ensuring they learn communication strategies that resonate with the communities they work with and serve.

This course is not just about meeting requirements; it’s about preparing students for the dynamic challenges of a world where science and culture intersect. By learning to understand and work with people from different backgrounds and communicate about how science is relevant to their lives, LSC 480 empowers UW-Madison students with the skills to communicate more effectively to advance their skills for careers in business, government, or non-profit fields.

“I am very excited to see this new course added to LSC curriculum. It will cover important concepts that are relevant to many science communication contexts nowadays, and be of interest to a wide range of students,” says Dominique Brossard, LSC professor and chair.


Written by: Jocelyn Cao, LSC M.S. ’23
Published: November 2023