Wednesday, September 20, 2023

UTSA ranks second among Hispanic Serving, Carnegie R1 universities for diverse faculty

UTSA ranks second among Hispanic Serving, Carnegie R1 universities for diverse faculty

MARCH 23, 2022 — At a time when the pandemic left many higher education institutions struggling to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts among traditionally underserved, underrepresented minority constituencies, UTSA continued to build upon its strong foundation of programs to make steady progress in key DEI initiatives — especially among its faculty.

UTSA leaders have remained steadfast to a commitment to increase the diversity of the university’s faculty by 50%. UTSA recognizes faculty’s central role as mentors and role models, and the importance of students seeing themselves and their experiences reflected in their instructors. In spite of the challenges of the pandemic, UTSA continues to take deliberate actions in strategic faculty recruitment and development toward realizing that goal.

“Diverse backgrounds bring new perspectives that drive scholarly innovation and research impact.”

“Faculty success is at the center of student success and great research,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “As a distinguished Hispanic Serving Institution, UTSA has been committed to hiring and retaining diverse faculty to serve as mentors and models of success for our students. Diverse backgrounds bring new perspectives that drive scholarly innovation and research impact. As such, hiring outstanding, diverse faculty remains central to UTSA’s strategic initiatives.”

As a result of its intentional efforts, UTSA’s faculty is more diverse than many peer institutions. For comparison, UTSA ranks second among the nearly 20 institutions designated as both Carnegie R1 and Hispanic Serving Institutions for the percentage of all tenured/tenure-track (T/TT) faculty who identify as Hispanic/Latino (18%). Only the University of Texas at El Paso is higher (29%).

In fall 2021, UTSA welcomed its most diverse cohort of tenured/tenure-track faculty members. Among these new T/TT faculty joining the university for the 2021-2022 academic year, 33% identify as Hispanic or Black. Specifically, the percentage of new T/TT faculty who identify as Hispanic increased to 30% in 2021 from 14% just three years earlier.

“To make progress toward our overall goal, we must be deliberate and intentional in our recruitment and hiring with each new faculty cohort,” said Espy. “We will continue to move the needle by recruiting and hiring talented individuals who bring new perspectives to our campuses and move us closer to becoming a university that reflects the future of our students, our city and our nation.”


Expanding perspectives through strategic faculty recruitment  

UTSA Academic Affairs launched its Strategic Faculty Hiring Initiative in early 2019. The initiative included programs such as the Accelerating Faculty Diversity Hiring Program and others that focus on hiring promising, accomplished and diverse faculty in key areas.

Nationally recognized STEM education scholar Araceli Martinez Ortiz was recruited to UTSA through the initiative’s Clustered and Connected Program. Martinez Ortiz, who holds the Microsoft President’s Endowed Professorship, was hired to build a new engineering education program designed to train the next generation of engineering educators with diverse experiences and backgrounds, reflective of our region.

“I am very proud to be at UTSA during this exciting time,” Martinez Ortiz said. “I feel valued for my technical expertise as an engineer and engineering education professor and for my unique point of view. It is such a privilege to find an organization whose mission is aligned to my own. I have found only encouragement and support from university leadership as I work every day to carry out my research agenda that seeks to discover approaches that inspire and prepare students from a broad variety of background and cultural experiences to succeed in engineering, design and other STEM careers.”

Another hiring initiative program is the Provost's Diversity Postdoctoral Fellows to Faculty Program, a two-year development program designed to prepare participants for faculty positions at UTSA (or elsewhere), particularly in fields with fewer women or members of underrepresented minorities.

Additionally, the Office of the Vice President for Inclusive Excellence established the Stealth Recruitment Portal that allows UTSA faculty to play a role in the recruitment process by referring potential faculty candidates. Through the portal website, potential faculty candidates can discretely share their cover letter, CV, or resumé with the appropriate dean or department chair.

“Innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving are greatly enhanced in a diverse and inclusive academic community,” Espy said. “These various programs serve to create a multi-pronged approach to developing, recruiting and hiring faculty who are under-utilized in the academy and reflect the diversity of our student body and communities.”

In 2019-2020, UTSA implemented new transformational practices related to faculty recruitment and hiring. For example, all faculty search committee members at UTSA participate in Inclusive Searches training. In addition, the university has implemented strategies around creating equity in the search process, diversifying the applicant pool, advertising all positions in diverse publications, using inclusive language in position descriptions and offering competitive packages.

The university also ensures faculty candidates have the opportunity to meet with affinity groups or the Vice President for Inclusive Excellence, thus establishing connections and a sense of belonging from the beginning of their experience as UTSA faculty.

Further, each faculty candidate at UTSA is asked to provide a research and teaching statement that discusses the role of diversity and inclusion in an academic environment. During interviews, all candidates are asked to describe what qualifications and experiences have prepared them to foster an inclusive environment where everyone is welcome and valued. 

“All of these practices contribute to creating an environment where a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion is valued and important,” said Heather Shipley, senior vice provost for academic affairs and dean of University College.

Promoting faculty success at UTSA 

While the university works diligently to hire diverse faculty, Shipley said orienting and retaining them is just as important. That begins with a robust onboarding experience: all new full-time faculty participate in a new faculty academy, Bold Beginnings at Roadrunner Nation, designed to instill a sense of belonging in the place where they've chosen to pursue their careers, as well as to effectivey launch their teaching and research activties.

Academic Affairs and the academic colleges have worked collaboratively to establish retention practices, including revising the principles guiding tenure and promotion to include language that underscores academic activities supporting the university’s role as an HSI, thus valuing scholarship that advances diversity, equity and inclusion. Colleges have also been proactive in identifying needed salary adjustments and offering retention packages when possible; when faculty do choose to pursue positions at other universities, in-depth exit interviews provide data to help continuously improve these practices.

Academic Innovation, an academic support division, facilitates or creates a range of development programs – often at no cost and with financial incentives – that help faculty learn and adopt new teaching practices and technology. These programs and institutes, like the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) Inclusive Teaching & Equitable Learning Course, provides year-round opportunities for faculty to gain new skills and connect with their peers outside their departments and colleges.

Additionally, UTSA has expanded and strengthened its mentoring opportunities to foster community and belonging among faculty. Led by the Faculty Success academic support division, faculty at all stages of their careers can now tap into a variety of programs and resources through the Faculty Mentoring Hub — from early-career department faculty mentoring, mid-career mentoring, peer mentoring teams and mentoring meet-ups to training to become a mentor and access to the resources afforded to institutional members of the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity.

Notably, in fall 2020, the Faculty Success team partnered with Inclusive Excellence to launch the Tenure Track Network Club, a mentorship group designed to provide early-career minority faculty with the intellectual and structural tools to increase their capacity to earn tenure.

“Individual faculty should have a prism of mentors—within their own disciplines and across the university—to support their research, teaching, service, leadership development and personal growth,” said Norma Guerra, UTSA associate vice provost for faculty diversity and inclusion.

A step up from traditional mentoring, Academic Affairs launched the Next-Gen Faculty Leadership Fellow Program in fall 2019 to provide an intensive training and development experience to promote diverse faculty leaders. On the national level, UTSA sponsors faculty members’ participation in the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Leadership Academy, a one-year program designed to prepare the next generation of culturally diverse leaderships for executive and senior-level positions in higher education.

As an HSI, UTSA plays an outsized role in successful degree attainment by Hispanic students. That’s particularly true for graduate programs — especially at the doctoral level — to increase the diversity of the nation’s faculty. For example, 47% of UTSA’s Ph.D. graduates identify as Hispanic or Black.

Taking the lessons learned and best practices to partner institutions

In addition to its initiatives, UTSA has joined efforts to address diversity in academia at the national level. In 2019, UTSA was one of only 15 public research universities selected to join the inaugural cohort of the Aspire Alliance. 

Led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and funded by the National Science Foundation, the Alliance works to better support underrepresented STEM students and faculty by identifying and scaling best practices in faculty recruitment, hiring and retention. 

The program now has grown to include more than 125 partner universities and colleges. Four UTSA faculty members have participated in the Alliance’s IAspire Leadership Academy, which seeks to prepare STEM faculty from underrepresented backgrounds for leadership roles in higher education.

While focused on cultivating inclusive teaching practices and diversifying faculty, the Aspire Alliance’s ultimate aim is to attract underrepresented students into STEM programs, retain them, and help them graduate and succeed in a modern STEM workforce.

A culture of continuous improvement

Although UTSA has made significant strides in hiring diverse T/TT faculty, Espy said the deliberate and ongoing focus would be necessary for continued progress. She points to the creation of the Hispanic Thriving Institution Leadership Council in 2021 as one opportunity to identify and establish new initiatives for supporting Latino student success and Latino faculty success at the university. The HTI Leadership Council’s work will be guided by the Seal of Excelencia, a comprehensive certification awarded to UTSA in 2020 to recognize the university’s commitment and ability to accelerate Latino student success.

Undoubtedly, she said, more initiatives and programs will be introduced. As of fall 2021, 57% of the university’s students identify as Hispanic or Latino, so there’s more opportunity to enhance current efforts toward faculty diversity.

“We are grateful for the commitment and efforts of the college deans, department chairs, and especially the faculty themselves, who every day in searches are actively recruiting diverse candidates to join them as colleagues. It takes all of us to make this happen,” Espy said. “We’re proud of the No. 2 ranking because it shows we are doing the right things — and we’re not done yet.”

To learn more about UTSA’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, visit the Academic Affairs and Office of Inclusive Excellence websites.

Brett Copeland and KC Gonzalez

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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UTSA’s Mission

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.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.