ASPIRE IChange Network


UNC Charlotte is one of 20 universities selected to join 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 and Diverse STEM Faculty. The University is part of a new cohort that joins the inaugural 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.

Participating universities will start with a self-assessment of current practices and assets aimed at ensuring all STEM faculty use inclusive teaching practices and that institutions increase the diversity of their STEM professoriate. The institutions will then develop and implement campus action plans to drive change and scale such efforts across all their STEM programs.

“UNC Charlotte began a coordinated effort in 2006 to recruit a more diverse faculty and to implement inclusive practices in our classrooms and throughout the University. The goals of the Aspire Alliance fully align with the UNC Charlotte Plan for Diversity, Access and Inclusion and our progress toward the seven objectives of that plan. We look forward to partnering with these peer institutions as we seek to continue to move the needle on our diversity and inclusion practices,” said Joan Lorden, provost and vice chancellor of Academic Affairs at UNC Charlotte.

The Aspire Alliance, which APLU and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) 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.

“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 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.”

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.

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; South 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 Texas; University of South Florida; and Western Michigan University.