Provost's Diversity Postdoctoral Fellows to Faculty (PDPFF) Program

Accelerating Academic Excellence: Pathways to Faculty for Diverse Postdoctoral Fellows

The University of Texas at San Antonio values a diverse scholarly community that promotes intellectual challenge, innovation and an inclusive educational environment driving the success of our students. In our role as an HSI Research University, we have a special responsibility to advance an academic community enriched by individuals reflecting diverse sociocultural identities, perspectives, and experiences who can have an outsized impact as exemplars and role models for students who are our next generation of thought leaders. To that end, the Provost’s Diversity Postdoctoral Fellows Program is intended to increase the diversity of the academic research community by supporting promising scholars and educators from diverse backgrounds whose life experience and research experience will contribute significantly to academic excellence at UTSA and prepare them for future faculty appointment.

The Provost’s Diversity Postdoctoral Fellows to Faculty (PDPFF) Program is part of our Strategic Hiring Initiative, which promotes the strategic hiring of outstanding scholars to advance institutional excellence. This fellowship program is designed to promote and nurture the work of outstanding diverse early-career postdoctoral scholars at UTSA and prepare the participants for faculty positions at UTSA (or elsewhere), particularly in fields where there are fewer women or members of underrepresented minorities. A successful nominee will be someone with diverse life experiences and background who has potential for both a successful fellowship and a possible future tenure-track faculty appointment at UTSA.

The purpose of the PDPFF program is to develop a diverse cadre of postdoctoral fellows prepared to enter the tenure track, by both fostering the continued development of an independent research program and supporting the development of innovative online or experiential teaching skills. This 2-year program is designed to advance the career success of postdoctoral fellows by:  1) providing specific professional development, training and research mentoring to establish a strong independent research program competitive for external support through work with faculty, and 2) 1:1 training in experiential and/or online pedagogy with experience teaching in the Honors College.

Promising diverse scholars from any discipline are welcomed; postdoctoral candidates with demonstrated interest or expertise in data science will receive first priority given UTSA’s broad scholarly expertise reflected in our School of Data Science. To contribute to the University’s knowledge enterprise, the Fellows will also be paired with a team of research mentors from the home college and the School of Data Science or another interdisciplinary scholar who will help connect them to the resources necessary to advance their research agenda and advance interdisciplinary inquiry.  Fellows will develop an Individualized Development Plan in collaboration with the faculty mentors to chart the desired experiences and skills to promote the further development of academic competencies and advance the research goals of the Fellows.

To develop teaching skills and contribute to UTSA’s Classroom to Career initiative, Fellows will work closely with the staff of the Honors College, division of Academic Innovation, and select offices specializing in high-impact, educational practices and experiential learning opportunities. Fellows will develop or teach 1 course per long term in the Honors College. They will also spend time developing teaching skills (e.g., online course development, designing service learning courses, research-based, or professional development courses, organizing a study abroad, etc.) that are not normally emphasized during graduate study. Mentorship by UTSA faculty and staff who have deep experience in these areas is central to this program and Fellows have the opportunity to deliver their courses to the high-achieving, diverse audience of the UTSA Honors College.

Upon successful completion of the program, Fellows will be evaluated during the final year for faculty appointment within a discipline at UTSA.


Background and Rationale

UTSA is in a strong position to provide Fellows in-depth research mentorship to advance their preparation for success on the tenure track. This position of strength, in part, comes from the university’s strategic investment in data science research, education, and resources. UTSA stands among a select cohort of national universities which recognizes that the advancement and broad application of data science is integral to discovery and learning. The university has strengths in data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence which it is integrating across all its colleges to enable ubiquitous digital approaches to scholarship.

The School of Data Science (SDS) is concentrating UTSA’s talent and resources in data science in a new purpose-built 167,000-square-foot building at the urban core of San Antonio, the seventh largest city and the fastest growing majority minority city in the United States. SDS is the cornerstone of the university’s 10-year plan to develop its Downtown Campus as a destination in the heart of the city’s tech corridor  for 1) producing highly skilled professionals and researchers in data science and analytics and 2) advancing economic development, personal prosperity, and social mobility at the urban core.  The new building will be ready for occupancy in August 2022. It will house multiple PhD and MS degree programs, at least 30 faculty engaged in data-intensive research and education from across all colleges, and research centers, such as the Matrix AI Consortium, the Open Cloud Institute, the UT Health Analytics Center, and the San Antonio City Data Lab,

 Our vision for SDS is to inspire and prepare a generation of diverse data scientists who can make our world more equitable, informed, and secure. We are committed to data science research and education that is focused – fair, open, convergence-driven, use-inspired, and security-aware.  We believe that a strong, representative postdoctoral scholars community is essential to realizing that commitment, and the PDPFF is our primary pathway.

 Furthermore, UTSA sits in a rich collaborative ecosystem – with dense industry government partners that comprise our National Security Collaboration Center, as well as Texas Biomed, Southwest Research Institute, and BAMC. These partners are collaborating in an exciting Precision Therapeutics Initiative, and regularly work together in joint ventures (SALSI, etc). UTSA has a strong connection to UT Health San Antonio, which is our sister medical school within the University of Texas system, and enjoys many existing collaborations, including with the Institute for Health Promotion Research, the Military Health Institute, and the joint PhD in Translational Science. Additionally, more than a dozen UTSA faculty have adjoint appoints in UT Health departments including Medicine, Nursing, Ophthalmology, Pediatrics, Population Health Sciences, and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences.  Other robust connections are to the Health Collaborative, the Methodist Health MinistriesBaptist Health Foundation and the City of San Antonio R&D League, Postdoctoral fellows will have the incredible opportunity to take advantage of these existing partnerships and associated mentors to contribute to the expansion of collaborations among institutions. Finally, UTSA has received the Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation due to the university’s numerous community partnerships with city organizations, including the Westside Community Partnership.

UTSA’s Westside Community Partnership is a placed-based strategy that aims to addresses the most tenacious challenges to the heart of San Antonio’s Mexican American working class community. Despite suffering from pervasive patterns of structural violence, including racial segregation, educational neglect and political disenfranchisement, the Westside continues to be a source of pride for the community, producing leaders, artists, visionaries and professionals. The WCP harnesses the human, intellectual and economic power of UTSA to improve the lives of the people of the Westside. The WCP is an integral part of UTSA’s strategy to reach its destination of being a premier urban-serving institution of the future. An urban-serving university is more than just a university located in an urban area. According to the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, of which UTSA is a member, to be urban-serving means to be, and to be seen as, an anchor institution “whose physical presence is integral to the social, cultural, and economic well-being of the community” in which the university is located.

This fellowship includes specific mentoring in undergraduate teaching, as unfortunately, traditional doctoral training underemphasizes the development of instructional competence, in part because developing innovative online or experiential learning courses generally require a significant time commitment on the part of both the student and the mentors that can negatively impact time to degree and research productivity. PDFP addresses this gap by offering the time and mentorship without sacrificing time on the tenure clock. Moreover, the Honors College provides an R&D laboratory for these courses to be delivered and refined with top students and faculty, all the while exposing UTSA’s top academic performers to the most recent innovations in inclusion, online, and experiential education. Both inclusive and experiential pedagogy are highlighted by this program, and experienced instructional design professionals will work directly with the Fellows to hone skill development. Experiential learning and transformative approaches to teaching are becoming increasingly important within higher education.

View the Initiative Brief


Evaluation Criteria

Up to two Fellows will be selected each year in this program. Successful candidates typically will have received their doctorate within the last two years.  Priority will be given to promising candidates that evidence a strong interest or demonstrated competency in one or more of the critical areas below:

  • Research and scholarship that uses approaches that 1) advance the state and region’s economic, social and cultural needs, and 2) demonstrate awareness of, and effort to, ensure diversity, inclusion, and representation are integral in the conceptualization and execution
  • Innovation that reflects culturally diverse communities or voices not well represented;
  • Research to understand the factors and experiences of historically underrepresented groups that contribute to disparities or that promote equity, including women as well as racial/ethnic groups underrepresented in STEM disciplines;
  • Partnerships in outreach and service that promote diversity and inclusion;
  • Broader programs of research concerned with eliminating disparities in access to and/or outcomes that could be enhanced through application of new data science methodologies.
  • Engagements with students that advance diversity and inclusion, including service aimed at expanding access, including building or leading bridge and mentoring programs for undergraduates;
  • Potential to contribute to our understanding of the conditions that enhance access to and full participation of a diverse academic community;
  • Excitement for developing innovations in pedagogy and curriculum to engage a diverse student body;
  • Use and contribute to community oriented data science methods, e.g, work with open source tools and/or in reproducibility;
  • Experience with mentoring students from groups that have been under-utilized in higher education;

Moreover, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • willingness to develop innovative online and experiential courses informed by diversity and inclusion pedagogy;
  • strong desire to work with high-achieving undergraduates within the context of an honors college;
  • interest and capacity to mentor honors students through projects and signature experiences;
  • interest in establishing a nationally competitive research program
  • potential to make long-term contribution to the knowledge enterprise at UTSA and meaningfully engage researchers in and out of the Fellows discipline, department & college.

Finally, through attracting promising researchers and educators from different backgrounds, racial and ethnic groups, and other diverse populations whose differing life experiences, research experiences and employment backgrounds foster innovative thinking, Fellows must contribute to the University’s commitment to advance excellence through diversifying its faculty. Successful candidates will diversify the faculty by one or more of the following circumstances:

  • Under-Utilizationrefers to the under- or non-representation of any race, gender, veterans, or disabled persons in an academic department, college or school – a condition in which a statistical disparity exists between the percentage of women and/or racial/ethnic minorities, non-minorities, veterans, or disabled in a given segment of the University work force and the percentage of qualified women and/or racial/ethnic minorities, non-minorities, veterans, or disabled persons available for these positions.
  • Veterans and Disabled Persons: Federal Regulations require that employers be measured against a benchmark “goal” for hiring veterans and people with disabilities. The Department of Labor has set a 7% goal of hiring veterans and persons with disabilities within each established job group. Please note that each applicant must be invited to self-identify as a covered veteran or person with a disability before a hiring decision is made (e.g., with the “application materials for the position”) and each applicant receiving an offer must be invited to self-identify as a covered veteran or person with a disability after an offer is extended but before the applicant begins working.
  • Special Needscould include areas where there is a high concentration of racial/ethnic minority majors or courses with a high concentration of racial/ethnic minority students but few faculty who identify from underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups. Please consult with the VPIE in advance, final determination is made in consultation among Academic Affairs, VPIE and Human Resources.

As an Hispanic-thriving institution, we particularly welcome future leaders in Hispanic/Latinx equity and inclusion, and given the role of diverse leadership in enabling pathways and serving as a role model for students from historically underrepresented groups.  Diverse candidates, particularly those who identify as Hispanic/Latinx, are strongly encouraged to apply.


Application Process

Applications will be reviewed in an on-going manner, with positions open until filled. Specific start date during Summer is negotiable.

The Special Opportunity Hiring Mechanism is used to accomplish PDPFF hires, and the general procedure to accomplish hiring is described on: https://provost.utsa.edu/VPAFS/documents/Special-Opportunity-Hires.pdf. PDPFF Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis during the academic year.

Once promising, eligible individuals have been identified by faculty and nominated to the Chair, the Dean submits a written PDPFF proposal describing how the candidate’s background, experience and other qualifications will advance academic excellence and strategic priorities, as outlined in this Initiative. This proposal should address how this hire advances excellence through diversity and inclusion, which should specify the candidate’s track record, experience, and commitments to research, teaching, service, and outreach collaborations with traditionally under-utilized students and constituencies, as outlined in the rationale and criteria above.

Also describe the candidate vetting process, including the benchmarks that must be met to be considered for a faculty position, how the candidate will be reviewed by faculty and others prior to hire, and attach the preliminary offer letter, Source of Funds form, draft start-up support list and the individual’s CV. If more than one PDPFF proposal is submitted by a dean, provide the priority order of request in relation to other requests that have been submitted by the school or college.

Selection Process

PDPFF reviews are ongoing under the Special Opportunity Hiring mechanism, and will be completed as soon as is practicable. The Provost reviews the Dean’s written candidate nomination proposal, funding plan and required materials. If the proposal and funding plan are approved after discussion with the Dean, the nominated individual is approved as a candidate and the hiring process is then authorized to proceed per established Academic Affairs guidance. The Dean, in consultation with the relevant Department Chair, Director of the School of Data Science, and the Honor’s College initiates the process of candidate review to hire in accordance with established guidelines prior to final negotiations.

Mentoring

PDPFF Fellows will be paired with two research mentors (one from the pertinent college and one from the School of Data Science) who will support them in advancing their Individualized Development Plan (IDP), and connect them to the scholarly resources necessary to advance their research agendas. Activities may include:

  • Orientationthat includes in-depth conversations between the mentor(s) and the Postdoctoral Researcher. Mutual expectations will be discussed and agreed upon in advance.
  • Career Counselingthat is directed at providing the Fellow with the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to excel in his/her chosen career path. Fellows will be encouraged to participate in networking activities and other UTSA-hosted research symposia to engage with academics and researchers within their fields of expertise.
  • Experience with Preparation of Grant Proposalswill be gained by direct involvement of the Fellow in proposals prepared by the mentor(s). The Fellow will have an opportunity to learn best practices in proposal preparation, including identification of key research questions, definition of objectives, description of approach and rationale, and construction of a work plan, timeline and budget. Fellows will also be encouraged to participate in research-related professional development opportunities offered through the Office of the Vice President for Research, Economic Development and Knowledge Enterprise.
  • Publications and Presentationsare expected to result from the work supported by the Fellow. Fellows will receive guidance and training in the preparation of manuscripts for scientific journals and presentations at conferences.
  • Instruction in Professional Practices,to be provided on a regular basis in the context of the research work, that includes fundamentals of the data scientific methods and other standards of professional practice in the Fellow’s applicable field(s) of expertise. In addition, Fellows will be encouraged to affiliate with one or more professional societies in his/her chosen field. Opportunities for structured didactic coursework and certificates also are available.

For instructional mentorship in the Honors College, the candidate will have the opportunity to collaborate with award-winning faculty and high achieving students. S/he will be coached to develop innovative courses that challenge students to perform hands-on work at the sites where data science and health intersect. The candidate will have the opportunity to learn how honors colleges function and the unique concerns of top achieving students. Although the Honors College does work with disciplines directly, Honors encourages interdisciplinary collaboration and will facilitate establishing these with for the successful candidate. High-impact teaching practices and inclusive pedagogy are emphasized and will involve the candidate in professional development that will advance skill development in these areas.

The division of Academic Innovation is home to professionals in instructional design, pedagogy development, learning and video technologies that are available for one-on-one consultation and intensive mentoring, determined by the needs and interests of the candidate.

Success of the Fellow’s Individualized Development Plan (IDP) will be assessed by the mentor(s) monitoring their personal progress toward his/her career goals as they engage in this program.

Funding

PDPFF is an institutional investment, funded by the Strategic Hiring Initiative administered by Academic Affairs. As a Fellow, 100% of the cost is covered by Academic Affairs. When the Fellow successfully transitions to an Assistant Professor, s/he will be treated as if in year two of the  FDP model. Years three, four and five will follow that a similar partnered funding pattern as  FDP, with the following funding split:

Initiative (Academic Affairs)

College/School/Department

Year One (Fellow)

100%

0%

Year Two (Fellow)

100%

0%

Year Three (Assistant Prof.)

66%

33%

Year Four (Assistant Prof.)

33%

66%

Year Five (Assistant Prof)

0%

100%