Iowa State joins national alliance to develop a more diverse STEM faculty

Iowa State has joined a national network of universities committed to enhancing the recruitment, hiring and retention of diverse faculty at their institutions. The National Alliance for Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty, Aspire, is a three-year program aimed at helping:

  • STEM faculty use inclusive teaching practices
  • Participating universities increase the diversity of their STEM faculty

The alliance's end goal is to attract more underrepresented students -- women, members of minority racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds -- into STEM college programs and help them graduate and succeed in a modern workforce.

Aspire is co-led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and funded by the National Science Foundation as part of its INCLUDES initiative.

Iowa State is one of 20 public research universities joining the alliance's second cohort. The group joins 15 universities that helped launch the effort in February. They become part of Aspire's Institutional Change (IChange) network, which provides comprehensive support and resources to members.

Participating universities begin their work with a self-assessment of current recruiting and professional development initiatives. The institutions then develop and implement campus action plans to drive change and scale their efforts across all STEM programs.

"Iowa State has long been interested in creating a welcoming environment for diverse faculty -- an environment that not only attracts them to campus, but helps them thrive through their careers," said Dawn Bratsch-Prince, associate provost for faculty. "Through the Aspire network, we will be able to share the best practices at our campus and learn from our partner institutions so that we can do an even better job in the future."

Despite an increased national focus on diversity and its role 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 9% of professorships in STEM fields at four-year universities. Research shows that when underrepresented students are taught by diverse faculty they achieve at higher rates; significantly reducing the course achievement gaps between minority and majority students.

Bratsch-Prince said Iowa State has numerous programs to recruit and retain diverse faculty at the department, college and institutional levels. Examples include:

  • Equity advisers in the colleges who work with deans, diversity committees, department chairs and faculty to implement best practices for faculty searches and support faculty success through the advancement pipeline.
  • Diverse faculty/staff associations that help underrepresented faculty acclimate to the university and community.
  • Multicultural liaison officers in each college who serve as a bridge between students, faculty and administrators.
  • Programming on inclusive classrooms and inclusive teaching resources through the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.

Michael Young, associate professor in the mathematics department, recently was named one of 20 fellows in the inaugural cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy, another IChange Network program that helps faculty from underrepresented groups prepare for academic leadership roles.

The 19 public research universities joining ISU in the second cohort are: Auburn, Ball State, Central Michigan, Florida International, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Tennessee (Knoxville), Texas (Austin), Arkansas, California (Davis), Cincinnati, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Nebraska (Lincoln), North Carolina (Charlotte), North Texas, South Florida and Western Michigan.