More than $225,000 in University funding will sponsor faculty, staff diversity, inclusion projects

Samantha Greyson

Fifty-two diversity and inclusion projects on campus have received grants from Actions that promote Community Transformation, an initiative from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

Lydia Contreras, chemical engineering associate professor, came up with the initiative to increase diversity and inclusion on campus. Contreras said the grant received more than $225,000 in funding.

The funding came from multiple departments across campus, including Dell Medical School, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the McCombs School of Business, the Office of Graduate Dean, university chief financial officer, and the Moody College of Communication.

In early September, grants ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 were awarded to 52 diversity and inclusion projects on campus. 

“(The projects) range from different topics that our staff and faculty are interested in,” Contreras said. “Some include broadening diversity and inclusion in undergraduate (and) graduate education. Others include recruiting and retention of different, more diverse people on campus (and) creating a community where everybody’s voices and presence are supported.”

Contreras said faculty and staff realized changes needed to be made on campus to improve diversity and inclusion after the Black Lives Matter protests this summer.

“The leadership realized that our campus, staff and faculty are ready to transform and make major changes,” Contreras said. “It’s amazing that these members of our community took the time … to really think about a broader cause and a broader community besides just keeping themselves and their households together at this time.”

Andrew Gershoff, the McCombs School of Business’ marketing department chair, was awarded a grant for the creation of a new course centered on diversity and inclusion in marketing. The grant is going toward the hiring of a professor for the undergraduate course, Gershoff said.

“We developed a course that looks at the role of marketing (with) stereotype bias and social justice,” Gershoff said. “We can teach our students the role of marketers … (who) influence societies in many ways. If they make good decisions, they might be able to improve things.”

Classics associate professor Ayelet Haimson Lushkov received a grant for her project, “Paths to a More Inclusive Classics Ph.D.” Lushkov hopes to evaluate the classics' role in the community, as well as K-12 education, to understand and improve diversity and inclusion within the field.

“Classics is a wonderful subject in many ways, but it is extremely white,” Lushkov said. “Clearly the time is right to make a change. Our project is reviewing and collecting information about how our Ph.D. program is working and what we can do to make it a more inclusive environment.”

Heather Vaughn, a K-12 senior outreach program coordinator for the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, received a grant for her project, “Civic Saturday.” Civic Saturday is a virtual meeting space in which students and faculty can discuss their civic responsibility through conversation and spoken word, Vaughn said.

“We really wanted a communal space for students to talk about and learn about relevant civic topics,” Vaughn said. “What I really find important for young people is to try to meet them where they are, which is why this project is trying to make civics more accessible in that it's not just about voting.”'

Editor's note: This story has been updated to information about the departments across campus who are funding the projects and to clarify that grants will fund faculty and staff projects.