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UTSA one of 15 public research universities selected to join inaugural Aspire Alliance

UTSA one of 15 public research universities selected to join inaugural Aspire Alliance

(Feb. 21, 2019) -- UTSA was selected as one of 15 public research universities to participate in the National Science Foundation-funded INCLUDES Alliance, Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty, its inaugural three-year institutional change effort to help those schools reform their recruitment, hiring and retention practices.

Aimed at ensuring all STEM faculty utilize inclusive teaching practices and that institutions increase the diversity of their STEM professoriate, UTSA and the other participating universities will begin their work with a self-assessment of their current practices and resources.  The schools will then develop and implement an action plan for initial change and map ways to scale such efforts across all their STEM programs. 

“We are proud to have been selected and look forward to participating actively in the inaugural Aspire Alliance to advance our institutional goals and national imperative to better support underrepresented STEM students and faculty,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, UTSA provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Heather Shipley, UTSA senior vice provost for academic affairs and dean of University College, will serve as the institutional point of contact for the Aspire Alliance and will coordinate UTSA’s involvement.

The 14 other public research universities participating in the inaugural program are California State University, Northridge; Cleveland State University; Florida State University; Georgia State University; Montana State University; Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis; University of California, Irvine; University of Central Florida; University of Houston; University of Illinois; University of Oregon; University of South Carolina; University of Vermont; and University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

The Aspire Alliance intends to select another 50 universities as part of two additional cohorts over the next two years.

The Aspire Alliance, which is led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), based at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, will engage the inaugural cohort of 15 universities to launch its IChange Network. The IChange Network will provide participating institutions with comprehensive support and resources for institutional change that includes access to national partners who can offer concierge-style technical assistance.  Working with participating institutions as a community of transformation, the IChange Network will also provide access to an institutional self-assessment for inclusive faculty hiring that APLU developed, a leadership institute to assist with professional development for existing faculty from underrepresented groups, and a competitive funding program to foster new campus-based initiatives to diversify STEM faculty.

UTSA’s IChange team includes the following faculty and staff:

Kimberly Andrews Espy, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Heather Shipley, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean of University College
Myron Anderson, Vice President for Inclusive Excellence
Edwin Barea-Rodriguez, Associate Dean for Student Success and Instructional Innovation in the College of Sciences and Professor of Biology
John Bartkowski, Professor of Sociology
Emily Bonner, Chair of Faculty Senate and Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching
JoAnn Browning, Dean of the College of Engineering
Alberto Cordova, Associate Professor of Kinesiology, Health, and Nutrition
Mark Leung, Department Chair and Associate Professor of Management Science and Statistics
Ambika Mathur, Incoming Vice Provost for Graduate Students and Dean of the Graduate School
Harry Millwater, Samuel G. Dawson Endowed Professor in Mechanical Engineering
Denise Moore, Compensation & Employment Manager in Human Resources
Kelly Nash, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Jianwei Niu, Interim Department Chair and Professor of Computer Science
David Silva, Incoming Dean of the College of Sciences
Johnelle Sparks, Department Chair and Associate Professor of Demography
Krystel Castillo Villar, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute
Steve Wilkerson, Associate Vice Provost for Institutional Research

“We are very excited to work with 15 impressive universities that are committed to taking a careful look at their existing practices and then developing and executing customized, targeted plans that will help diversify their STEM professoriate and ensure their teaching practices are more inclusive.  All of this will help attract more students from underrepresented groups into STEM fields,” said Tonya Peeples, associate dean for equity and inclusion of the Penn State College of Engineering and co-leader of the Alliance’s IChange Network.  

“We are just getting started, but the excitement among these participating universities is palpable. Everyone realizes the potential to have STEM faculty and the students in those programs be more reflective of the diversity of the nation,” said Travis York, APLU’s assistant vice president of academic and student affairs who is also co-leader of the IChange Network.

While focused on cultivating inclusive teaching practices and diversifying faculty, the Aspire Alliance’s ultimate aim is to attract underrepresented students—women, members of minority racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds—into STEM programs, retain them, and help them graduate and succeed in a modern STEM workforce. 

Despite the centrality of diversity in learning and student success, efforts to increase underrepresented faculty have not been as successful as intended, particularly in STEM. A 2015 NSF analysis revealed that underrepresented minority faculty occupied a mere 8 percent of associate and full professorships in STEM fields at four-year institutions. Data show when underrepresented students are taught by diverse faculty members they achieve at significantly higher rates; as much as 20-50 percent of the course achievement gaps between minority and majority students are eliminated.

In addition to its institutional change efforts, the Aspire Alliance will also be launching a regional change component that will build collaboratives of two-year colleges, four-year regional universities, local research universities, and the private sector.  The group will also seek national change through partnerships with an array of disciplinary societies, groups that focused on underrepresented students and faculty, and professional development organizations to align faculty disciplinary experiences. 


Celebrate UTSA’s 50th Anniversary and share social media posts about the 50th using the hashtag #UTSA50.

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The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

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