Advancing a Culture of Respect and Accountability on Campus
Dear UTSA Graduate, Doctoral, and Post-Doctoral trainees:
We are writing you to share some ongoing efforts to further advance UTSA along our strategic plan destination to becoming a great public research university.
As noted below, UTSA has demonstrated a substantial commitment and many important actions in these areas, and yet we still have much work to do to realize our goals. As a result, we will be taking proactive steps in the coming months to address two separate and distinct matters in accordance with our institutional values:
- Implementing across our community national best practices for faculty mentoring of trainees.
- Reviewing specific Title IX policies and procedures to support our students to the best extent possible.
These additional efforts will build on and leverage the work we have been doing since 2018 in support of the second destination of our strategic plan and the research excellence presidential initiative. In 2019, Academic Affairs launched the Graduate Student Success for Faculty Excellence initiative to reimagine the graduate, doctoral, and post-doctoral educational and training experience at UTSA. The task force's final report has been an invaluable road map to guide excellence in our graduate students and doctoral programs to date.
With this designation, additional efforts to promote graduate training excellence have been underway through the Graduate School’s Bold Doctoral Journey program. The focus of this program involves the specification of training milestones, professional development, doctoral support, development of marketable skills, and the use of individual development plans (IDPs) to promote, align and systematize effective faculty mentor-student-scholar trainee supervision and guidance.
Complementary to the graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral education-focused initiatives, Academic Affairs has overhauled its approach to faculty development and support through the establishment of the division of Faculty Success, which is centered on faculty development and administrative affairs. Faculty Success works closely with partners across the university to support all faculty in their professional development. This includes developing a faculty mentoring hub, creating a robust new faculty academy and chair orientation, and establishing department chair trainings and a learning community.
These efforts align with the ongoing national conversation around improving mentoring. An editorial by the journal Nature just last week aptly describes the need for doctoral training in the U.S. and abroad. And the National Academies, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation all continue to advance mentoring programs.
To reach our aspirational levels of excellence, we will continue to advance how we mentor graduate, doctoral, and post-doctoral trainees and support the development of faculty mentoring skills. This commitment will help us recruit and support the best graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral trainees and prepare them to be leaders in their fields to impact our world.
To achieve this, Academic Affairs, the Graduate School, People Excellence, Research, and the academic colleges will begin working closely with our graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral trainees, faculty, and shared governance groups to further accelerate our focus on mentorship and develop an implementation plan by the end of the spring semester.
As a graduate, doctoral or post-doctoral trainee, we want to make sure you are aware of the many resources at UTSA to support you academically and personallywhile you work toward your degree. Please also know that we are committed to supporting high-quality faculty mentoring, professional and career development support, wellness and well-being management, and equity, justice and inclusion.
However, we know significant issues can sometimes arise regarding non-uniform supervisory treatment of graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral trainees, inappropriate mentor-trainee relationships, and unequal faculty mentoring expectations of trainees. People Excellence and Faculty Success have worked closely together to review and address any faculty-related concerns they discover, which are often related to appropriate communications and setting appropriate professional boundaries. Let us remind you of the availability of dedicated university-wide assistance by the Graduate School to support graduate, doctoral, and post-doctoral trainees to ensure your success. Should you wish to speak to Vice Provost & Dean Mathur directly, please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
While we have made significant progress toward addressing concerns around faculty mentor-trainee supervisory relationships and have worked to respond fully to specific complaints and to broader climate concerns we hear, we must identify additional ways to improve our research culture further.
To that end, UTSA, in consultation with appropriate administrative and shared governance organizations, will also be instituting (1) a formal review of Title IX and other relevant university policies and procedures to determine if anonymity can be expanded for complainants within the federal regulations and (2) a formal review of faculty and staff disciplinary processes around Title IX violations for possible adoption of newer best practices, especially in light of potential changes in federal law.
If you have concerns related to Title IX, we encourage you to contact EOS.
Vice Provost for Graduate Studies & Dean of the Graduate School
Kimberly Andrews Espy
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs