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South Dakota State Joins National Alliance Aimed at Developing a More Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty

SDSU campus sunrise

South Dakota State University is one of 20 universities joining a three-year institutional change effort to develop inclusive faculty recruitment, hiring and retention practices. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities co-leads the effort, known as Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty. The new cohort joins an >inaugural set of 15 institutions that began working together to advance such work earlier this year. The National Science Foundation funds the effort as part of its INCLUDES initiative.

Aimed at ensuring all STEM faculty use inclusive teaching practices and that institutions 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.

The Aspire Alliance, which APLU and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning 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 for institutional change, including access to national partners in a concierge-style approach to technical assistance.

Leading SDSU’s IChange team will be Michele Dudash, who heads the Department of Natural Resource Management, and Hande Briddick, an associate professor in the College of Education and Human Sciences. Also on the team are: Dennis Hedge, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs; Charlene Wolf-Hall, dean, College of Natural Sciences; Bruce Berdanier, dean, Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering; Kas Williams, Chief Diversity Officer; Shana Harming, director, Wokini and Tribal Relations; Erica Moore, director, American Indian Student Center; David Clay, distinguished professor and president of Faculty Senate; Marc Serrett, assistant vice president, Human Resources; Jana Hanson, director, Institutional Research and Assessment; Rebecca Kuehl, associate professor and coordinator of the women’s and gender studies program; Nicole Lounsbery, interim dean, Graduate School; Jon Stauff, assistant vice president, International Affairs; and Kevin Sackreiter, director, Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.

“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.”

“We are excited to have these 20 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 cohort, this second cohort will grow 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. All of this will help ensure the success of underrepresented groups in STEM fields.”

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 >2019 NSF analysis revealed that underrepresented minority faculty occupied a mere 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; as much as 20 to 50% of the course achievement gaps between minority and majority students are eliminated.

The other public research universities in the new cohort are: Auburn University; Ball State University; Central Michigan University; Florida International University; Iowa State University; North Dakota State University; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; the University of Texas at Austin; University of Arkansas; University of California, Davis; University of Cincinnati; University of Florida; University of Georgia; University of Missouri; the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; University of North Carolina at Charlotte; University of North Texas; University of South Florida; and Western Michigan University.

About the APLU
APLU is a research, policy and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. With a membership of 241 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and affiliated organizations, APLU's agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 4.9 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.3 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $44.9 billion in university-based research.