Aimed at ensuring all STEM faculty utilize inclusive teaching practices and that institutions increase the diversity of their STEM professoriate, the participating universities will begin their work with a self-assessment of their current practices and resources. The schools will then develop and implement an action plan for initial change and map ways to scale such efforts across all their STEM programs.
The 15 public research universities participating in the inaugural institutional change effort are: California State University, Northridge; Cleveland State University; Florida State University; Georgia State University; Montana State University; Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis; University of California, Irvine; University of Central Florida; University of Houston; University of Illinois; University of Oregon; University of South Carolina; The University of Texas at San Antonio; University of Vermont; and University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Aspire Alliance intends grow this new institutional change effort and select 50 additional universities as part of two additional cohorts over the next two years.
The Aspire Alliance, which the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), based at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, lead with the additional involvement of several universities, will engage the inaugural cohort of 15 universities to launch its IChange Network. The IChange Network will provide participating institutions with comprehensive support and resources for institutional change that includes access to national partners who can offer concierge-style technical assistance. Working with participating institutions as a community of transformation, the IChange Network will also provide access to an institutional self-assessment for inclusive faculty hiring that APLU developed, a leadership institute to assist with professional development for existing faculty from underrepresented groups, and a competitive funding program to foster new campus-based initiatives to diversify STEM faculty.
“We are very excited to work with 15 impressive universities that are committed to taking a careful look at their existing practices and then developing and executing customized, targeted plans that will help diversify their STEM professoriate and ensure their teaching practices are more inclusive. All of this will help attract more students from underrepresented groups into STEM fields,” 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.
“We are just getting started, but the excitement among these participating universities is palpable. Everyone realizes the potential to have STEM faculty and the students in those programs be more reflective of the diversity of the nation,” said Travis York, APLU’s Assistant Vice President, Academic and Student Affairs who is also co-leader of the IChange Network.
While focused on cultivating inclusive teaching practices and diversifying faculty, the Aspire Alliance’s ultimate aim is to attract underrepresented students—women, members of minority racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds—into STEM programs, retain them, and help them graduate and succeed in a modern STEM workforce.
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 2015 NSF analysis revealed that underrepresented minority faculty occupied a mere 8 percent of associate and full professorships in STEM fields at four-year institutions. Data show when underrepresented students are taught by diverse faculty members they achieve at significantly higher rates; as much as 20-50 percent of the course achievement gaps between minority and majority students are eliminated.
In addition to its institutional change efforts, the Aspire Alliance will also be launching a regional change component that will build collaboratives of two-year colleges, four-year regional universities, local research universities, and the private sector. The group will also seek national change through partnerships with an array of disciplinary societies, groups that focused on underrepresented students and faculty, and professional development organizations to align faculty disciplinary experiences.