4.4 Sparks for Change: Supporting and Retaining Minority Faculty in the Geosciences

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 11:15 AM
Ballroom C (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Rebecca L. Batchelor, UCAR, Boulder, CO; and R. Kirsch, B. King, S. Habtes, and J. Crockett

The geosciences continue to lag behind other STEM fields in building a diverse workforce. While some progress has been made in recruiting underrepresented minority students into the field, the geoscience professoriate continues to severely under represent women and minorities, which is a crucial link to building a diverse workforce. Even though there are growing numbers of early career minority faculty being recruited into geoscience departments, there is an ongoing challenge in retaining them. Part of this challenge is the lack of institutional support and recognition in tenure and promotion pathways for faculty who undertake broadening participation efforts.

Sparks for Change is a NSF Geoscience Opportunities for Leadership in Diversity (GOLD)-funded project that aims to support underrepresented minority (URM) faculty and change departmental culture to better value and reward inclusion and broadening participation efforts. By encouraging, recognizing, and rewarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts at the department level, we aim to support and retain URM faculty, who often disproportionately undertake these efforts, and to build more inclusive environments for faculty, staff and students alike. Sparks for Change utilizes a small group theory of change, arguing that the effort of a small group of committed individuals inside the organization is the best way to overcome the institutional inertia of academic departments that makes them resistant to change. In September 2017, eleven small groups will be brought together at the Sparks for Change Institute in Boulder, CO. These small groups, representing a range of institutions, are comprised of a junior faculty URM who is interested in DEI in the geosciences, a senior member of that same department who can lend weight to efforts and is positioned to help direct department policy, and an external broadening participation expert who can share best practices and provide accountability for the group. During the institute they will receive leadership training on adaptive, transformative, and solidarity practices, share DEI experiences and best practices, build a community of “change agents” for broadening participation, and develop department-specific action plans for their own institution. In this talk we will discuss our findings from the institute, highlighting some of the action plans the small groups developed for changing their departments to better support broadening participation efforts, and share thoughts on how we can work to make the geosciences more inclusive for everyone.

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