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UT has joined a three-year effort to develop inclusive faculty recruitment, hiring, and retention practices. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities co-leads the project, known as Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty.

“Building a diverse faculty in STEM fields mirrors our goal to increase diversity among students participating in STEM majors,” said Robert Nobles, interim vice chancellor for research. “Diverse teams are needed in scientific fields to effectively tackle 21st century problems with creativity and innovation.”

Research shows when underrepresented students are taught by diverse faculty members they achieve at significantly higher rates; as much as 20 to 50 percent of the course achievement gaps between minority and majority students are eliminated.

“Since studies show that diverse perspectives make for both better scientific and educational outcomes, the membership promises to bring an array of benefits to our campus,” said John Zomchick, vice provost for faculty affairs. “This is an exciting opportunity. UT has much to bring to the program, and we look forward to learning from our partners in the network.”

The Aspire Alliance’s work at UT begins with an assessment of current practices and assets. The university will then develop and implement action plans to drive change and improve efforts across all STEM programs.

APLU and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning—of which UT is a member institution—facilitate the Aspire Alliance with the involvement of several universities and will engage the new cohort of 20 universities through its Institutional Change Network. The network provides universities with comprehensive support and resources for institutional change.

“Our membership in the Aspire Alliance’s growing iChange network complements other initiatives underway that are aimed at similar goals,” Zomchick said.

UT also holds an National Science Foundation Adaptations for a Sustainable Climate of Excellence and Diversity award to promote equity in the recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement of women in STEM disciplines on the UT faculty. ASCEND is funded through the NSF’s Organizational Change for Gender Equity in STEM Academic Professions (ADVANCE) program, which seeks to develop systemic approaches to increase the participation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers.

The NSF also funds the Aspire effort as part of its INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) initiative.

The other public research universities in the new Aspire Alliance cohort are: Auburn University; Ball State University; Central Michigan University; Florida International University; Iowa State University; North Dakota State University; South Dakota State University; 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.

CONTACT:

Erin Chapin (865-974-2187, echapin1@utk.edu)

Karen Dunlap (865-974-8674, kdunlap6@utk.edu)