The University of Minnesota today announced it’s one of 19 universities joining a three-year institutional change effort to develop inclusive faculty recruitment, hiring, and retention practices. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) co-leads the effort, known as Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty. The new cohort joins two earlier cohorts that are currently working together to advance such work, bringing the total number of institutions participating in the institutional change effort to 54. The National Science Foundation funds the effort as part of its INCLUDES initiative.
Aimed at ensuring all STEM faculty use inclusive teaching practices and that institutions increase the diversity of their STEM professoriate, participating universities begin their work with a self-assessment of current practices and assets. The institutions will then develop and implement campus action plans to drive change and scale such efforts across all their STEM programs.
“We are delighted to collaborate with the Aspire Alliance to build a more diverse and inclusive faculty," said Rachel T.A. Croson, Executive Vice President and Provost of the University of Minnesota. "We know that recruiting, retaining, and supporting diverse people, cultivating a welcoming and inclusive campus climate, and nurturing enduring partnerships is key to achieving our goals as described in the systemwide strategic plan, MPACT 2025. This collaboration will strengthen our ability to strategically enact our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to deliver on our mission of education, discovery, and impact.”
The Aspire Alliance, which APLU and the University of Wisconsin-Madison facilitate with the involvement of several universities, is engaging the new cohort of 19 universities through its Institutional Change (IChange) Network. The network provides universities with comprehensive support and resources for institutional change, including access to national partners in a concierge-style approach to technical assistance.
“At the University of Minnesota, efforts are well underway to advance diversity and inclusion in the academic STEM disciplines," shared Keisha Varma, Associate Vice Provost in the Office for Equity and Diversity of the University of Minnesota. "Being a member of the collaborative Aspire Alliance strengthens our commitment to broadening representation in STEM at the University of Minnesota and informs and inspires our work moving forward.”
“We face a critical shortfall of diversity in STEM fields nationally,” said Travis York, APLU’s Assistant Vice President, Academic and Student Affairs, who is also co-leader of the IChange Network. “The institutions participating in the IChange Network are moving beyond statements into actions as they seek to enact inclusive organizational structures to increase diversity of their faculty and value the use of equity-minded practices by all faculty as we work to address a national challenge.”
“We are excited to have these 19 impressive universities expand the IChange Network and bring their deep commitment to transforming STEM education,” said Tonya Peeples, Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion of the Penn State College of Engineering and co-leader of the Alliance’s IChange Network. “Learning from and alongside our exceptional first and second cohorts, this new cohort expands our potential to identify and share the most promising innovative practices towards diversifying the STEM professoriate and ensure their teaching, advising, and mentoring is inclusive. With new types of institutions joining the network, we’ll be learning together how to create and sustain lasting change for diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM across the higher education ecosystem. All of this will help ensure the success of underrepresented groups in STEM fields.”
The other institutions in the new cohort are: Appalachian State University; California Polytechnic State University, Pomona; Grand Valley State University; Jackson State University; Lehigh University; Louisiana Tech University; Mississippi State University; Pennsylvania State University; Stevens Institute of Technology; Temple University; The Ohio State University; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of Denver; University of Louisiana at Lafayette; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Pittsburgh; Utah State University; and Virginia Tech.
Despite the centrality of diversity in learning and student success, efforts to increase underrepresented faculty have not been as successful as intended, particularly in STEM. A 2019 NSF analysis revealed that underrepresented minority faculty occupied a mere 9 percent of professorships in STEM fields at four-year institutions. Other research shows when underrepresented students are taught by diverse faculty members they achieve at significantly higher rates; as much as 20 to 50 percent of the course achievement gaps between minority and majority students are eliminated.