UCI News

UCI selected for national effort to develop more diverse STEM faculty

University is one of 15 tapped for inaugural institutional change cohort

February 12, 2019
UCI selected for national effort to develop more diverse STEM faculty
“Faculty diversity is the cornerstone of our aspiration to be a national leader and global model of inclusive excellence,” says Enrique J. Lavernia, Ph.D., UCI provost and executive vice chancellor and Distinguished Professor of materials science & engineering. “Especially in the STEM schools, diversifying our faculty is vital to our future success and a key priority for our academic leaders.” Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Feb. 12, 2019 — The University of California, Irvine has been selected as one of 15 public research universities to take part in a three-year, National Science Foundation-funded campaign to boost the diversity of faculty in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines.

Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty aims to help the schools reform their recruitment, hiring and retention practices and support the success of STEM students from underrepresented groups.

UCI and the other universities in the alliance’s inaugural institutional change cohort will begin with a self-assessment of their current practices and resources. They will then develop and implement an action plan for initial modifications and map ways to scale such efforts across all their STEM programs.

“Faculty diversity is the cornerstone of our aspiration to be a national leader and global model of inclusive excellence,” said Enrique J. Lavernia, Ph.D., UCI provost and executive vice chancellor and Distinguished Professor of materials science & engineering. “UCI holds the unique distinction of being both a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and a minority-serving institution. Recruiting and retaining diverse faculty not only ensures models for our high-achieving students but also enables the campus to respond to the grand challenges of our society with fundamental discoveries and transformational innovations. Especially in the STEM schools, diversifying our faculty is vital to our future success and a key priority for our academic leaders.”

The 14 additional universities involved are: California State University, Northridge; Cleveland State University; Florida State University; Georgia State University; Montana State University; Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; the University of Central Florida; the University of Houston; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the University of Oregon; the University of South Carolina; The University of Texas at San Antonio; the University of Vermont; and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Fifty more schools will be chosen as part of two other cohorts over the next two years.

The Aspire alliance – led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning – will engage the inaugural cohort of 15 universities to launch its IChange Network. This will provide participants with comprehensive support and resources for institutional change, including access to national partners who can offer concierge-style technical assistance.

The network will also make available a self-assessment of inclusive STEM faculty hiring that the APLU created, a leadership academy for the professional growth of current STEM 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, including UCI, 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,” said Tonya Peeples, associate dean for equity and inclusion at the Penn State College of Engineering and co-leader of the IChange Network.

While focused on diversifying faculty, the alliance’s ultimate goal is to attract underrepresented students – women, members of minority racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities and those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds – into STEM programs, retain them, and help them graduate and thrive in a modern STEM workforce.

Despite the centrality of diversity in learning and student outcomes, efforts to increase underrepresented faculty have not been as successful as intended, particularly in STEM disciplines. A 2015 NSF analysis revealed that minority faculty occupied a mere 8 percent of associate and full professorships in STEM fields at four-year institutions. Data has shown that when underrepresented students are taught by diverse faculty members, they perform at significantly higher levels – eliminating 20 to 50 percent of the course achievement gap between minority and majority students.

In addition to its institutional change endeavor, the Aspire alliance will launch a regional change component that will build collaboratives among two-year colleges, four-year universities, local research universities and the private sector. It will also seek national change through partnerships with an array of disciplinary societies, groups focused on underrepresented students and faculty, and professional development organizations.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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