Building on the successes of programs that promote diversity among undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields, the University of Georgia has joined a multi-institution alliance that is working to enhance faculty diversity and the use of inclusive teaching practices.
The effort is known as Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty faculty, and it is co-led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The National Science Foundation funds the Aspire Alliance and its Institutional Change Network as part of its INCLUDES initiative.
“I am pleased the University of Georgia is joining the Aspire Alliance,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “To remain a top public research university, it is critical that we continue to lead efforts to ensure diverse representation of faculty and students in STEM research and education, both at UGA and across the nation.”
To date, 35 institutions have joined the Aspire Alliance IChange Network, which was launched earlier this year.
“Our participation in the Aspire Alliance Institutional Change Network reflects the University of Georgia’s commitment to expanding participation in STEM for underrepresented groups,” said Michelle Cook, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives. “Through this program, we have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from other IChange members while also sharing our expertise as we work to promote diversity in our faculty ranks.”
Participating universities begin their work with a self-assessment of current practices and assets. They then develop and implement action plans specific to their institutions and scale those efforts across their STEM programs.
UGA Foundation Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Greg Robinson is the faculty lead on the project. He noted that the self-assessment process, combined with the sharing of knowledge and best practices among the participating institutions, will help identify areas of strength at the university as well as any opportunities for improvement.
“I am excited to participate in this effort by the University of Georgia and our IChange partners,” Robinson said. “Promoting and sustaining diversity at the faculty level in our colleges and universities remains a nationwide challenge.”
UGA’s participation in the Aspire Alliance complements several existing programs on campus that are focused on broadening participation in STEM disciplines, which are critical to the nation’s global economic competitiveness. For more than a decade, UGA has led the National Science Foundation-funded Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, which offers a high school bridge program, summer research program and mentoring. Through the Bridges to the Doctorate program, which also is funded by the NSF, alumni recruited from LSAMP programs across the country receive two years of support for work toward a doctoral degree, with the remaining support coming from the department in which they study.
Programs such as these have helped increase the enrollment of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields at UGA. In 2009, 24% of underrepresented minorities at the undergraduate level were pursuing STEM degrees. Today, that figure is 34%. At the combined undergraduate and graduate levels, 29% of underrepresented minorities at UGA are pursuing STEM degrees.
“The University of Georgia’s membership in the Aspire Alliance is part of our broad and sustained commitment to the interconnected goals of promoting diversity and academic excellence,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “We look forward to collaborating with our partners in the IChange Network as we seek new and innovative ways to expand participation in STEM education.”