(MUNCIE) – Ball State University announced today it’s joining a nationwide, three-year institutional change effort to develop inclusive STEM faculty recruitment, hiring, and retention practices.
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) co-leads the effort, known as Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty. The new cohort of 20 universities joins an inaugural set of 15 institutions that began working together to advance such work earlier this year. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds the effort as part of its INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) initiative.
The Aspire Alliance aims to ensure all STEM faculty use inclusive teaching practices and to help institutions to increase the diversity of their STEM professoriate. Participating universities begin their work with a self-assessment of current practices and assets. The institutions will then develop and implement campus action plans to drive change and scale such efforts across all their STEM programs.
A 2019 NSF analysis revealed that underrepresented minority faculty occupy 9% of professorships in STEM fields at four-year institutions. Other research shows when underrepresented students are taught by diverse faculty members, they achieve at significantly higher rates.
Ball State President Geoffrey S. Mearns said inclusiveness is one of the University’s enduring values; inclusive excellence is an important goal within the institution’s strategic plan, Destination 2040: Our Flight Path.
“We are lifted by our enduring value of inclusiveness — a commitment to respect and embrace equity, inclusion, and diversity in all people, in all perspectives, in all ideas, and in all opinions,” President Mearns said. “At the heart of our strategic goal is our commitment to recruit, to support, and to retain a diverse population of students, faculty, and staff.
“Partnering with APLU and the other universities will enhance our efforts to foster inclusiveness, especially in the STEM fields. This initiative will help meet the need for more STEM professionals in Indiana and beyond. More importantly, it is the right thing to do.”
Ball State’s efforts to better support equity, inclusive excellence, and civility are underway, said Provost Susana Rivera-Mills. Last year, she asked all of the University’s academic areas to review and refine their policies and practices related to diversity and inclusion.
“As our student population becomes more diverse, recruiting and retaining a more diverse faculty, including professors in STEM disciplines, will help all of our students grow into graduates who have fulfilling careers and lead meaningful lives,” she said. “Ball State is a university deeply committed to student success, academic excellence, and community engagement — in one word, we are about impact — we are here to positively impact and transform lives through education.”
The Aspire Alliance, which APLU and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison facilitate with the involvement of several universities, is engaging the new cohort of 20 universities through its Institutional Change (IChange) Network. The network provides universities with comprehensive support and resources, including access to national partners in a concierge-style approach to technical assistance.
“Recruiting, hiring, and retaining more inclusive and diverse STEM faculty on our campuses is essential for the increased success of all STEM students, the increased quality and production of our scientists, and public universities’ ability to achieve their mission to improve lives,” said Travis York, APLU’s assistant vice president, academic and student affairs, who is also co-leader of the IChange Network. “Increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion within a project aimed at catalyzing large-scale innovation and change is extremely difficult — which is why we’re thrilled to announce a new cohort of institutions committed to working collaboratively to do exactly that on their campuses.”
Ball State will build on its current efforts such as its PhD Pathways initiative. For several years, PhD Pathways has paired undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds with faculty, professional staff, community professionals, and distinguished alumni. The goal is to develop talent to make the future of academia more diverse.
A more visible example of Ball State’s welcoming, inclusive culture is the new Multicultural Center, which will be at the heart of campus. The $4 million, approximately 10,500-square-foot facility will open in 2020. It will contain open collaboration space for student organizations and peer advocate leaders; multipurpose room for meetings, presentations, and other functions; administrative offices; exhibition space for cultural art work that represent the values of inclusive excellence; and a small café.