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Jackson State University joins national alliance aimed at developing more inclusive, diverse STEM faculty

(JACKSON, Miss.) — Jackson State University announced today that it’s one
of 19 universities to join a three-year institutional change effort to
develop inclusive faculty recruitment, hiring, and retention practices in
STEM. It’s co-partnering with Association of Public and Land-grant
Universities (APLU) in an effort known as Aspire: The National Alliance
for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty.

The announcement means that JSU is now part of a new cohort that is
joining two earlier cohorts that are currently working together to advance
such work, bringing the total number of institutions participating in the
institutional change effort to 54. The National Science Foundation (NSF)
funds the effort as part of its INCLUDES initiative.

Efforts to increase underrepresented faculty have not been as successful
as intended, particularly in STEM, and a 2019 NSF analysis revealed that
underrepresented minority faculty occupied a mere nine percent of
professorships in STEM fields at four-year institutions.

Other research reportedly shows that when underrepresented students are
taught by diverse faculty members they achieve at significantly higher
rates; as much as 20 to 50 percent of the course achievement gaps between
minority and the majority of students are eliminated.

So, aimed at ensuring that all STEM faculty use inclusive teaching
practices and that institutions increase the diversity of their STEM
professoriate, participating universities in Aspire 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 throughout all their STEM programs.

Dr. Alisa Mosley, interim provost at JSU, said the administration realizes
the critical impact of a more diverse and inclusive faculty, especially
for reflecting the varying ideals of under-represented groups and their
populations and cultures.

“We must tend to an emerging transformation in academic demographics at
the national level,” Mosley said. “By joining the Aspire national
alliance, JSU will be able assess best practices that foster faculty
diversity and inclusion with the 19-partner institutions.”

To achieve its goals, Mosley said JSU will create a network of workshops
and seminars for students, faculty and administrators to share best
experiences related to diversity and inclusion. She added that JSU will
adopt development practices to help faculty members transform their STEM
teachings, mentoring and learning environments. By doing so, she expects
an increase in the number of under-represented students entering the STEM
workforce and in the recruitment of graduates at the professoriate level.

The Aspire Alliance, which APLU and the University of Wisconsin-Madison
facilitate with the involvement of several universities, is engaging the
new cohort of 19 universities through its Institutional Change (IChange)
Network. The network provides universities with comprehensive support and
resources for institutional change, including access to national partners
in a concierge-style approach to technical assistance.

For years, JSU has been building on past and existing partnerships with
the NSF to include and advance under-represented students. Among those
sponsored by the NSF includes Increasing the Participation and Advancement
of Women in Academic Science and Engineering careers (ADVANCE); the Louis
Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP); and Research
Infrastructure for Science and Engineering (RISE) to enhance the
recruitment, training and provide a pipeline to doctoral and professoriate
attainment in academia.

Moreover, Mosley highlighted JSU’s participation in the Institutional
Change Through Faculty Advancement in Instructorship and Mentorship
(ICFAIM) program. It helps transform teaching and mentoring practices to
increase the STEM workforce. Also, JSU’s Center for Innovation,
Entrepreneurship and Economic Development encourages interdisciplinary
involvement on creative ideas.

“We face a critical shortfall of diversity in STEM fields nationally,”
said Travis York, APLU’s Assistant Vice President, Academic and Student
Affairs, who is also co-leader of the IChange Network. “The institutions
participating in the IChange Network are moving beyond statements and into
actions as they seek to enact inclusive organizational structures to
increase diversity of their faculty and value the use of equity-minded
practices by all faculty.”

“We are excited to have these 19 impressive universities expand the
IChange Network and bring their deep commitment to transforming STEM
education,” 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. “Learning from and alongside our exceptional first and
second cohorts, this new cohort expands our potential to identify and
share the most promising innovative practices toward diversifying the STEM
professoriate and ensure their teaching, advising, and mentoring is
inclusive.

Other institutions in the new cohort are Appalachian State University;
California Polytechnic State University, Pomona; Grand Valley State
University;  Lehigh University; Louisiana Tech University; Mississippi
State University; and Pennsylvania State University. Others include
Stevens Institute of Technology; Temple University; The Ohio State
University; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of Denver;
University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The rest are University of Maryland,
College Park; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; University of
Pittsburgh; Utah State University; and Virginia Tech.