Office for Equity & Diversity News

University of Minnesota Joins National Alliance Aimed at Developing a More Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty

OCTOBER 29,2020 – The University of Minnesota today announced it’s one of 19 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 (APLU) co-leads the effort, known as Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty. The new cohort joins 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 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.

“We are delighted to collaborate with the Aspire Alliance to build a more diverse and inclusive faculty,"  said Rachel T.A. Croson, Executive Vice President and Provost of the University of Minnesota. "We know that recruiting, retaining, and supporting diverse people, cultivating a welcoming and inclusive campus climate, and nurturing enduring partnerships is key to achieving our goals as described in the systemwide strategic plan, MPACT 2025. This collaboration will strengthen our ability to strategically enact our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to deliver on our mission of education, discovery, and impact.”

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.

“At the University of Minnesota, efforts are well underway to advance diversity and inclusion in the academic STEM disciplines," shared Keisha Varma, Associate Vice Provost in the Office for Equity and Diversity of the University of Minnesota. "Being a member of the collaborative Aspire Alliance strengthens our commitment to broadening representation in STEM at the University of Minnesota and informs and inspires our work moving forward.”

“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 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 as we work to address a national challenge.”

“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 towards diversifying the STEM professoriate and ensure their teaching, advising, and mentoring is inclusive. With new types of institutions joining the network, we’ll be learning together how to create and sustain lasting change for diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM across the higher education ecosystem. All of this will help ensure the success of underrepresented groups in STEM fields.” 

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

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 percent 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 percent of the course achievement gaps between minority and majority students are eliminated.

 

Tadd M. JohnsonWelcome Professor Tadd M. Johnson, Senior Director of American Indian Tribal Nations Relations

Tadd M. Johnson has been named the University of Minnesota’s first senior director of American Indian Tribal Nations Relations.

In this inaugural role, Johnson will serve as the liaison between the University of Minnesota and regional Tribal Nations, creating pathways for strong collaborations.

“I am honored and humbled to be selected for this new position,” Johnson said. “It is my hope that this great University will form new and lasting partnerships with the Native Nations of the region.”

As senior director of American Indian Tribal Nations Relations, Johnson will continue to be housed at U of M Duluth, where he will also continue his work as the director of the Tribal Sovereignty Institute and director of Graduate Studies in the American Indian Studies Department.

“I am delighted that the University will benefit from Professor Johnson’s expertise and leadership in this role,” said U of M Vice President for Equity and Diversity Michael Goh. “We are committed to deepening relationships and engagement between the University and Tribal Nations and serving American Indian students, staff, and faculty. We look forward to working with Professor Johnson to consider ways we can demonstrate our deepest respect for the sovereignty of our Tribal Nations, in our discovery, teaching, and service to Minnesota’s indigenous communities.”

In addition to his academic work, Johnson is a resource to tribal governments and Native American people with more than three decades of leadership and service in the field of Federal-Indian law and policy. Johnson served as a tribal attorney for more than 20 years, and has also served as a tribal court judge and administrator. Johnson is a frequent lecturer on American Indian history and Federal Indian Law. He spent five years with the U.S. House of Representatives, ultimately becoming staff director and counsel to the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. In 1997, President Clinton appointed Johnson to chair the National Indian Gaming Commission. He is nationally recognized in the area of Native American Law and is an enrolled member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.

Johnson received a B.A. at the University of St. Thomas, a J.D. at the U of M Law School, and serves on the Boards of the Udall Foundation and the Native Governance Center. – November 21, 2019. 

 

Sharon Banks Welcome Ms. Sharon Banks, Executive Director of the Office for Business & Community Economic Development (OBCED)

We are excited to share that Sharon Banks has accepted the position of Executive Director of the Office for Business & Community Economic Development (OBCED). Ms. Banks will officially begin in her new role on October 28, 2019.

Ms. Banks currently serves as OBCED's Co-Interim Executive Director and has held the position of Senior Project Manager in OBCED since 2001. In her time at OBCED, she has provided steady leadership and earned the respect of her colleagues across the University of Minnesota. She previously held management positions at Northwest Airlines/Delta Airlines in Corporate Purchasing and the Career Resource Center.

She received an M.A. in Public Affairs and Economic Development at the University of Minnesota and a B.S. in Business Management and Economics at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

OBCED will benefit from Ms. Banks's leadership and expertise in this pivotal role. We look forward to continuing our work with University and community partners to contribute to the economic growth, innovation, development, and prosperity of the communities in which we live and work.

 

Fenando Rodriguez Welcome Dr. Fernando Rodriguez, Director of the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence

We are excited to announce that Dr. Fernando Rodriguez will be joining the Office for Equity and Diversity (OED) as the Director of the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence (MCAE) on October 28, 2019. 

Dr. Rodriguez currently serves as the Assistant Director of Social Justice and Inclusion for Housing and Residential Life here at the University of Minnesota. In this role, he provides leadership in the design and implementation of training programs, and has cultivated strong partnerships across the University.

In addition to teaching several courses at the U of M, Dr. Rodriguez has also held positions at Macalester College, Carleton College, New York University, and DePauw University. He received a B.A. in Sociology at the University of Texas, Austin; an M.A. in Higher Education and Student Personnel Administration at New York University in New York City; and his Ph.D. in Higher Education at the University of Minnesota.

We are delighted that MCAE will benefit from Dr. Rodriguez's leadership and expertise in this vital role, and at this critical time. His passion for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion will guide the next phase of MCAE’s work to strongly support multicultural students on the Twin Cities campus.

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