APLU and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are leading the Aspire Alliance, a national network with an array of groups and universities to diversify STEM faculty and ensure all STEM faculty use inclusive practices. Meet APLU’s Aspire team, which works closely with colleagues across the network to advance diversity and inclusion in STEM education.
Why did you join APLU? I joined Peter McPherson as he was assuming the presidency of APLU. Having worked for him for a decade prior at Michigan State University, his request (or assumption) was phrased, “have you thought about what your role would be?” I’m drawn to serving public universities, some of the most critical societal institutions in the nation. I’m excited every day by how APLU is redefining the role of higher education associations – serving as a facilitating platform for institutional networks studying and piloting approaches to transforming education success. The role of associations in this critical institutional change process was hardly identified half a dozen years ago. It’s wonderful to be on the forefront in the conceptual development and practice of this substantial contribution to educational improvement.
Where is the best place you’ve traveled and why does it stand out? Walking safaris in East Africa. Tracking animals, learning animal cultures and social structures – their calls of danger – being the visitor on their turf, as wild lands used to be everywhere. It’s possible that a planned expedition cruise around Svalbard, Norway this next summer will become tough competition.
What is your favorite thing to do on your day off? Cruise on the idyllic Occoquan River in my inflatable kayak, thick with wildlife, followed by a grilled or smoked meal paired with a sublime pinot noir or full-bore shiraz wine.
Why did you join APLU? I joined APLU to make a difference in the field of higher education. Having worked on campus in student affairs, faculty, and administrative positions, I've seen firsthand how our institutions can improve the lives of their students and communities. I wanted to join APLU for the opportunity to support an entire network of universities through our efforts on Capitol Hill and our efforts to work with APLU members to support the evolution of our universities to meet the current and future needs of the world.
What is your favorite thing about living in DC? My favorite thing about living in DC is the sheer amount of super interesting things there are to experience. During my time living in the district, I've belonged to a competitive karaoke team (which was made up of all higher ed folks), a sailing team, and a bocce team (we were the 2018 Spring Season Champions)! Many of DC's organizations host incredible discussions as well. We were recently graced by the cast of QueerEye and Schitt's Creek. Beyond the art, museums, zoo, and arboretum, there is also an endless array of food from virtually every ethnic background, plus where else can you get Mumbo Sauce?!
Where is the best place you’ve traveled and why does it stand out? I love to travel, so it's too hard for me to pick one place. But here are a few standouts: Soaking up the sun via a boat on the Almalfi Coast with lots of Italian wine, it's the most luxurious thing I've ever done. Hiking a glacier in Iceland, which was a great reminder of how small we are in the grand scheme of things. Hiking through the pink rocks of Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon, which are incredibly gorgeous and almost otherworldly. Finally, the beach – anywhere, anytime, the beach... especially in my hometown of Charleston, SC!
Why did you join APLU? APLU provides me the opportunity to work with passionate, expert, and committed faculty, staff, and administrators as we work together to continuously improve public research universities. APLU can be a powerful lever of change in accelerating the spread of educational innovations across our member networks. As examples, we can help catalyze activity when we convene cohorts of institutions to implement common interventions, provide guidance on key questions such as what is the right composition for an institutional team, and structure knowledge sharing and learning opportunities among our members. It is a rewarding and enriching experience to work with member campuses on these important issues.
What is your favorite thing about living in DC? My favorite thing about DC is the public transportation system and its walkability. There are beautiful buildings, unique neighborhoods, and delicious food that you can reach in under 30 minutes – no car needed.
What was the last play/musical you attended? I recently saw the musical Spring Awakening, which explores coming of age issues, generational differences, and the consequences of withholding information from young people. I cannot say that I liked it, but I have not been able to forget it. It made me thoughtfully uncomfortable.
Why did you join APLU? My passion and academic interests are grounded in supporting students, faculty, and staff strive for more equitable and inclusive environments, which I’ve been able to do at the institutional level in my previous positions. I joined APLU for the opportunity to help advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education at the national level with the hopes of helping to support broad systemic change efforts through the NSF INCLUDES Aspire Alliance.
What is your favorite thing about living in DC? There are many things I like about living in DC. I love walking down the street and seeing so many different people, hearing multiple languages being spoken, visiting all the wonderful museums and parks and watching people enjoy learning about the country I live in. It reminds me to be appreciative of what I have and where I am, even in the midst of the chaos that also comes with living near the political epicenter of the U.S.
What was the last TV show you couldn’t get enough of? I just recently watched all of the Star Treks – Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, Enterprise – with my 13-year-old. I am amazed to see the poignant reflection of our societal issues portrayed through this futuristic viewpoint. The episodes provide incredibly salient themes that sparked great conversations in our family. I am also saddened to see that we haven’t made as much progress on solving the societal issues in the past 30 years as maybe I would have hoped.
Why did you join APLU? Joining APLU, and my role managing Aspire’s IChange Network, seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine my scholarly training studying diversity in the professoriate with the professional experience I had managing projects and teams of people to accomplish organizational and cultural change. I love getting to support leaders and faculty at institutions in tackling seemingly intractable problems with creativity, community, and a learning mindset.
What was your first real job? I worked as the office manager, and eventual event planner, at a music booking agency. We booked bands for weddings, private parties, and corporate events. It was fun to talk about music every day, but I learned sales-oriented jobs are not for me.
What is your favorite thing about living in DC? I love the rich history of DC, and its diverse and changing neighborhoods. I try to stay engaged in the community through service in local organization focused on educating and empowering DC citizens.
Where is the best place you’ve traveled and why does it stand out? Lithuania. I am a quarter Lithuanian, and traveled there a few years ago with my mom and brother. We got to meet our extended family, including seeing the tiny village where my great-grandfather grew up. It was my first time traveling somewhere that felt intimately connected to my personal history. It turns out Howard Gobstein and I both have roots in the southern part of Lithuania, which is also a fun connection here at APLU.
Why did you join APLU? I was excited to be part of a collaborative project dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in higher education. I was especially interested in Aspire’s focus on faculty and the opportunity to be able to join in its first year.
Where is the best place you’ve traveled and why does it stand out? One of my favorite trips was to Mexico City and exploring the cuisine, especially the carajillos and churros.
What was the last TV show you couldn’t get enough of? I recently finished the second season of Better Call Saul and can’t wait to start the next season. It’s different from Breaking Bad, but just as compelling and it’s really fun to see the backstories of some of the main characters.