UND is one of only a small number of campuses selected for a major National Science Foundation grant that will allow the university to advance, and contribute to ongoing research around matters of, inclusion, diversity and equity in academia.

A team of UND faculty and administrators will conduct an institutional self-assessment over two years to identify points of inequity among STEM – which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics – faculty. The self-assessment will not only look for ways to improve the career experiences of faculty members at UND, but potentially for professors and instructors nationwide.

UND was one of only a small number of institutions across the country recently selected for the NSF ADVANCE Program’s “Catalyst” track. With a goal of creating a more diverse and capable science and engineering workforce, the ADVANCE Program’s four grant-funding tracks aim to create evidence-based systemic changes that promote equity for STEM faculty, according to UND.

For the next two years, an NSF grant for about $275,000 will fund UND’s project under the name “ADVANCE Catalyst: Improving Gender and Foreign-Born Equity among STEM Faculty at the University of North Dakota.”

UND President Andrew Armacost said the NSF award “represents yet another step by members of the UND community to create a more inclusive and equitable campus.” He added that the discussions from this project will be valuable as the university works toward strengthening its diversity and inclusion strategies, in the short and long term.

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Armacost has been president of UND for just over a year now and topics like diversity, equity and inclusion have been at the forefront of many campus discussions.

“Education is about a human experience. It’s about interacting as human beings and growing people into their better selves. This is the role of university,” Armscost told the Herald recently. “Our goal is to make human beings better, and there's no more important statement that we can make about valuing these human beings than to say, ‘we want a place that's fair and equitable for everyone.’”

Justin Berg, associate professor of sociology, is serving as lead principal investigator on the project. There are also several other professors and administrators joining the team, including Sarah Sletten, associate professor of biomedical sciences, and Donna Smith, assistant vice president for equal opportunity and Title IX.

Using institutional data collected over the next year – through surveys, interviews, focus groups and policy reviews – the group will then work with various internal and external stakeholders to recommend a five-year strategic equity plan for Armacost’s approval.

“We are trying to identify the points of inequity among our STEM faculty and then work toward potential solutions for the betterment of everyone at UND,” Berg said in a statement. “Given the university’s recent activity in addressing differences among diverse and underrepresented populations on campus, the timing of this award couldn’t be better.”

Additionally, Berg said the university will gain a better understanding of how factors such as race, gender and place of birth, among others, intersect and affect someone’s overall career in the STEM field. The team wants to find the disparities that exist, then work with stakeholders to adjust or create policies and systems for better faculty experiences.

Sletten said the two-year project will specifically identify where inequities exist in a way that can be of use to other, similar institutions addressing known faculty disparities.

“This grant allows us to engage in a larger conversation that’s already taking place across campuses, as more grant-funding institutions and organizations focus more intensely on diversity and inclusion,” Sletten said. “If we want to be more inclusive, we have to look at the policies and structures that can make our profession more equitable for everybody.”

The work done by the group will likely impact UND’s five-year strategic plan, which runs from 2017 through 2022.