SEPTEMBER 30, 2021 — Two faculty members from UTSA have been selected to participate in a national leadership program for academics in the STEM fields. Cybersecurity expert Nicole Beebe and biologist Astrid Cardona have been named as fellows in the third cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy. The program aims to help STEM faculty from underrepresented backgrounds ascend to leadership roles at institutions of higher learning.
Beebe is chair of the Department of Information Systems and Cyber Security and the Melvin Lachman Chair in Entrepreneurship in the Carlos Alvarez College of Business. She is a leading expert in digital forensics, cyber security and data analytics who has over 20 years of industry and government experience in information security and digital forensics.
UTSA professors Nicole Beebe (left) and Astrid Cardona (right) have been named fellows in the third cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy.
“I feel very passionate about developing leaders from underrepresented populations in STEM,” said Beebe, who earned her Ph.D. from UTSA in information technology. “I’ve spent my whole career in engineering, cyber and analytics as a female in male-dominated fields. This leadership program will allow me to expand my network and perspective by learning how individuals at other universities and from various backgrounds leverage their experiences to benefit their institutions.”
Cardona is professor and chair of the College of Sciences’ new Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. Her work on the immune-nervous system axis has influenced the field of brain inflammation, specifically in neurodegeneration associated with diabetes and multiple sclerosis. She is also a member of the South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, which was established at UTSA to focus state and national resources on areas of molecular microbiology, immunology, medical mycology, virology, microbial genomics, vaccine development, and biodefense.
“The academy has been a source of inspiration to reach personal excellence,” Cardona said. “The interactions with talented and humble fellows nurture a mentality of productivity, commonness and courage that translate into a new focus in my behavior, values and priorities. I am grateful for this opportunity.”
The IAspire Leadership Academy provides professional development for academic leaders from underrepresented groups so they can aspire to and succeed in more senior leadership roles, thus broadening participation in academic leadership. Fellows learn effective executive leadership skills for increasingly complex higher education environments as well as strategies for influencing institutional transformation in their current and future leadership positions. The 27 participating faculty and administrators in the 2021-2022 cohort were selected through a competitive, holistic review of their applications.
Kelly Nash, professor of and associate dean for faculty affairs in the UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy, was a member of the first cohort of IAspire in 2019, and UTSA cognitive neuroscientist Nicole Wicha was a member of the second cohort in 2020.
“Through my experience as an IAspire Leadership Fellow, I was able to focus on developing my natural leadership skills in a supportive, peer group setting,” Nash said. “The program helped me to see myself as a leader and to develop an intentional plan for my future leadership journey. The skills I obtained through this program were immediately applicable to my leadership role at UTSA and has made me a more agile and resilient leader.”
“We are excited that Nicole and Astrid get to participate in this opportunity, which will enrich their careers and leadership skills and as a result, benefit our institution,” added Heather Shipley, UTSA senior vice provost for academic affairs and dean of the University College. “Faculty play a central role in the success of our diverse student body. We are pleased to be a part of the Aspire Alliance and the important work they are doing.”
In 2019, UTSA was selected as one of 15 public research universities to participate in the inaugural cohort of the National Science Foundation-funded Aspire Alliance, an effort that is advancing the institution’s destinations to be a model for student success, a great public research university and an exemplar for strategic growth and innovative excellence. As part of the Aspire Alliance, UTSA is engaged in a three-year institutional change effort to cultivate a more inclusive and diverse campus culture, develop inclusive practices for all STEM faculty, and implement effective recruitment, hiring and retention practices to diversify STEM faculty.
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