UT joins 19 universities to bring inclusivity to STEM faculty

Mariane Gutierrez

To recruit a more diverse STEM faculty, the University joined 19 other universities in a three-year effort to change current faculty recruitment practices. 

The initiative, called Aspire Alliance, was created by an advocacy organization called The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities that advocates for public universities in the United States, according to their website. As a new member of the alliance, the University has pledged to change its faculty recruitment process after evaluating current STEM faculty hiring practices and identifying issues, according to a press release. The alliance aims to bring more women, members of minority racial and ethnic groups, people with disabilities and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds into the STEM field, according to advocacy organization’s website. 

Tasha Beretvas, senior vice provost for faculty affairs, said the University will initially focus on improving diversity among STEM faculty. If the initiative proves successful, the University will expand onto other academic departments, Beretvas said.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to network with our peer institutions,” Beretvas said. “While the focus is on our STEM teaching and learning practices, we plan that all our faculty and students will benefit from this critical initiative.”

The University will create a team that will perform an in-depth assessment of faculty recruitment, hiring processes and professional development to see what areas need work, said Travis York, assistant vice president of academic and student affairs for the association.

“That allows us to then look for opportunities so that (universities) can hire, recruit and retain a more diverse faculty,” York said.

According to the press release, a 2019 analysis conducted by the National Science Foundation revealed underrepresented minority faculty make up 9% of professors in STEM fields at most four-year universities.

“(STEM) is an area of the institution where we see the most underrepresentation amongst faculty,” York said. “We know for underrepresented students, the more representation they have on their faculty … the better they do. We also know from (the National Science Foundation) that more diverse and inclusive faculty do better.”

Psychology freshman Jasmine Elias said she is interested to see how the initiative will change female representation among STEM faculty at the University.

“This is a good start in bringing more diversity to UT,” Elias said. “I’ve noticed there aren’t many female professors in my classes, and it’s a bit discouraging. I hope this brings attention to the issue, and minorities are given more representation.”