Louisiana Tech joins national efforts to increase diversity among STEM faculty

Oct 29, 2020 | General News, Innovation

Louisiana Tech University is one of 19 universities joining a three-year institutional change effort to develop inclusive faculty recruitment, hiring, and retention practices.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) co-leads the effort, known as Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty.

Two earlier cohorts are also currently working to advance this work, bringing the total number of institutions participating in the institutional change effort to 54. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds the effort as part of its INCLUDES initiative.

“Louisiana Tech has long been a leader in innovative methods in STEM education,” said Dr. Terry McConathy, Louisiana Tech Provost. “This initiative will help our faculty continue their work to create a space where all students see themselves represented in and out of the classroom.”

The change effort is aimed at ensuring all STEM faculty use inclusive teaching practices and that institutions increase the diversity of their STEM faculty. Participating universities begin their work with a self-assessment of current practices and assets, and the institutions will then develop and implement campus action plans to drive change and scale such efforts across all their STEM programs.

Earlier this year, Louisiana Tech appointed its first Dean of Inclusion Initiatives and Student Success, Devonia Love-Vaughn, and began forming an Inclusive Excellence Advisory Council to help inform inclusion initiatives on the Louisiana Tech campus. Through programs established under prior National Science Foundation support, Dr. Katie Evans, Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives in the College of Engineering and Science, works toward greater diversity and inclusion within the University’s STEM faculty.

“This effort complements our existing work to support faculty recruitment, success, and retention,” Evans said. “With STEM disciplines spanning all of Louisiana Tech’s colleges, our participation with Aspire provides an opportunity to access tools and resources to advance inclusive practices at an institutional level.”

“This is an exciting opportunity for our campus, it gives Louisiana Tech one additional resource to expand our efforts of inclusion and enhance and grow the work that Dr. Katie Evans has begun when it comes to diversifying opportunities for our current and future STEM faculty,” Love-Vaughn said.

The Aspire Alliance will engage the new cohort of 19 universities through its Institutional Change (IChange) Network. The network provides universities with comprehensive support and resources for institutional change. Other institutions in the new cohort are: Appalachian State University; California Polytechnic State University; Grand Valley State University;  Jackson State University; Lehigh University; Mississippi State University; Pennsylvania State University; Stevens Institute of Technology; Temple University; The Ohio State University; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of Denver; University of Louisiana at Lafayette; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; University of Pittsburgh; Utah State University; and Virginia Tech.

“We face a critical shortfall of diversity in STEM fields nationally,” said Travis York, APLU’s Assistant Vice President, Academic and Student Affairs, who is also co-leader of the IChange Network. “The institutions participating in the IChange Network are moving beyond statements into actions as they seek to enact inclusive organizational structures to increase diversity of their faculty and value the use of equity-minded practices by all faculty as we work to address a national challenge.”