The University of Florida announced Tuesday that joined a three-year institutional change effort aimed at diversifying its faculty recruitment, hiring, and retention practices in STEM fields.
The effort, Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty, was spearheaded by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The National Science Foundation funds the effort as part of its INCLUDES initiative.
UF and 20 other universities joined the effort following an inaugural set of 15 institutions that began working together to advance the mission earlier in 2019.
According to a UF news release, the 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 believe inclusion, diversity, equity and access in our STEM faculty enable us to deliver the best possible educational experience and are critical to our research excellence,” said Antonio Farias, UF’s Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Advisor to the President.
“An inclusive and diverse STEM faculty taps our creativity, drives high performing teams, and creates measurable impacts and outcomes for our students, the Florida workforce and the communities we serve.”
The Aspire Alliance is facilitated by APLU and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison facilitate alongside several universities. The institutions are working with the new cohort of universities through the Institutional Change (IChange) Network, which provides comprehensive support and resources for institutional change at universities.
“Recruiting, hiring, and retaining more inclusive and diverse STEM faculty on our campuses is essential for the increased success of all STEM students, the increased quality and production of our scientists, and public universities’ ability to achieve their mission to improve lives,” said Travis York, APLU’s Assistant Vice President, Academic and Student Affairs, who is also co-leader of the IChange Network.
“Increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion within a project aimed at catalyzing large-scale innovation and change is extremely difficult — which is why we’re thrilled to announce a new cohort of institutions committed to working collaboratively to do exactly that on their campuses.”
Tonya Peeples, Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion of the Penn State College of Engineering and co-leader of the Alliance’s IChange Network added, “We are excited to have these 20 impressive universities expand the IChange Network and bring their deep commitment to transforming STEM education.
“Learning from and alongside our exceptional first cohort, this second cohort will grow our potential to identify and share the most promising innovative practices toward diversifying the STEM professoriate and ensure their teaching, advising, and mentoring is inclusive. All of this will help ensure the success of underrepresented groups in STEM fields.”
Studies have shown diversity in academia, particularly in STEM, leads to better educational outcomes for students. Underrepresented students show the largest achievement gains — up to half of the achievement gap between minority students and their peers are eliminated when minority students are provided the opportunity to learn from a diverse faculty.
Still, those gains aren’t widespread due to a lack of underrepresented minority faculty at traditional four-year universities. A 2019 NSF analysis found that they made up just 9 percent of the faculty in STEM fields.
In addition to UF, Florida International University and the University of South Florida have signed on.
The other universities in the cohort: Auburn University; Ball State University; Central Michigan University; Iowa State University; North Dakota State University; South Dakota State University; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; the University of Texas at Austin; University of Arkansas; University of California, Davis; University of Cincinnati; University of Georgia; University of Missouri; the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; University of North Carolina at Charlotte; University of North Texas; and Western Michigan University.