FIU has joined a three-year institutional change effort known as the Aspire IChange Network to develop inclusive faculty recruitment, hiring, and retention practices.
FIU is part of a new group of 20 universities, which join 15 universities that are already part of the initiative. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) co-leads the effort with the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), while the National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund the program as part of its INCLUDES initiative that helps enhance U.S. leadership in science, engineering and innovation.
Aimed at ensuring that all STEM faculty use inclusive teaching practices and that institutions increase the diversity of their STEM faculty, the participating universities ultimately will develop and implement campus action plans to drive change and scale such efforts across all their STEM programs.
“A diverse and inclusive STEM faculty is critical, and not just for excellence in teaching and research. Having professors and mentors with whom students can identify can help them imagine a similar career trajectory for themselves,” said FIU Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton.
The Aspire Alliance, which APLU and CIRTL facilitate, is engaging this new cohort of 20 universities through its Institutional Change (IChange) Network, which provides universities with comprehensive support and resources for institutional change.
“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 for 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.”
Participation in the Aspire IChange Network will help supplement the efforts of FIU ADVANCE, a five-year $3.2 million Institutional Transformation grant awarded in 2016 by the NSF for FIU to develop innovative organizational change strategies to produce comprehensive change within an academic institution across all STEM disciplines. FIU ADVANCE is aimed specifically at developing strategies to increase the number of women and minority professors of STEM and social and behavioral science courses at the university, and is overseen by the Office to Advance Women, Equity & Diversity.
Despite the focus on 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 nine percent of professorships in STEM fields at four-year institutions. Other research shows that underrepresented students who are taught by diverse faculty members succeed at significantly higher rates – as much as 20 to 50 percent of the course achievement gaps between minority and non-minority students are eliminated.
The other public research universities in the new cohort are: 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 Florida; University of Georgia; University of Missouri; the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; University of North Carolina at Charlotte; University of North Texas; University of South Florida; and Western Michigan University