Page 77 - Winter 2020
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  The Need for A New Normal
E. K. Ellington Scott
     Figure 1. Author E. K. Ellington Scott playing the drum set, 2020. Photo courtesy of Lori Wilson.
During my first day of middle school, each student was asked to explain his or her professional goals. I was confident and eager to share my aspirations. When I proudly articulated my desire to become a research engineer, my teacher erupted into laughter. I stood there paralyzed, yet painfully aware that this teacher who had only known me for a few seconds had already assessed me as a student with limited capabilities. This is a common story for Black male students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
My name is E. K. Ellington Scott. I am presently the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) James West Fellow (see, studying in the architectural acoustics doctoral program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY (Figure 1). I hold an MS in architectural acoustics from Rensselaer as well as a double degree in physics and jazz performance from Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, OH. My currentresearchfocusesonthesound-qualityassessment of jazz venues and the effects of spatial acoustic energy distribution on stage intercommunication between musicians. Improvisation plays an important role in jazz; the spontaneous composition requires a heightened sense of listening and communication from all musicians within the ensemble; analyzing the acoustic energy distribution is crucial in understanding the stage design
of jazz venues.
Southern Roots
Growing up in the southern United States, attending not one but two schools named after Confederate sympathizers, gave me a keen awareness of systematic racism and prompted me to challenge every skewed misperception about my academic ability. I knew from an early age that I had an interest in music and STEM. Naturally, being named after the late great Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, I was
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continuously immersed in music. However, finding my way to STEM was not as direct. My passion began to blossom after attending a lecture where the key speaker was Mae Jemison (see She was the first Black woman in space as well as a medical doctor, an engineer, and a choreographer.
My parents intentionally exposed me to black scientists and engineers. Alice Ball, Edward Bouchet, and James West (see;;, respectively) are but a few of many with whom I became acquainted. My parents realized that the traditional curriculum in the American educational system would leave out historical figures from the African Diaspora. They used every opportunity to expose me to paragons of academic excellence who resembled me. Many underrepresented students are left with very few visible role models in the world of STEM. Of course, I was also exposed to classical role models; Leonardo da Vinci holds a special place in my heart for his extraordinary abilities
for interdisciplinary study and the melding of his passions.
Nevertheless,havingarolemodelwholookslikeoneself is invaluable. It encourages and strengthens the student's interest in a particular subject, reinforcing the native conviction that their aspirations are within reach. In my academic career, I have yet to have a Black teacher in any
     Volume 16, issue 4 | Winter 2020 • Acoustics Today 77

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