Washington State University is now part of a network of prominent research universities and organizations working to better recruit, retain, and support diverse faculty.
WSU is a member of the fifth cohort of the NSF Eddie Bernice Johnson INCLUDES Aspire Alliance Institutional Change Network. By providing participating universities with a system for identifying and acting on transformative opportunities, the IChange Network aims to help break down barriers in faculty recruitment and retention as well as institutional culture and climate.
“This is a terrific opportunity for our university to engage in critical self-examination, guided by the support of our peers and the organizations that participate in the IChange Network,” WSU Provost and Executive Vice President Elizabeth Chilton said.
The university is already in the process of conducting the guided self-assessment process, which is expected to continue through December. From January through May, WSU and its peers will meet to process and discuss data gathered in the preceding months, culminating in a draft action plan that’ll continue to be developed as WSU becomes part of the larger IChange Network.
WSU’s lead representatives to the network are Lisa Guerrero, vice chancellor for equity and inclusive excellence at WSU Pullman as well as a professor of comparative ethnic studies, and Anna Plemons, associate vice chancellor for academic and student affairs and an associate professor of digital technology and culture.
In addition to being involved in the IChange Network, WSU has taken active steps in recent years to attract and retain diverse faculty as well as bolster their sense of being supported. Chief among these efforts is the cluster hire program launched in 2020 by Chilton, which aims to build a network of scholars committed to conducting research addressing historical and persistent racism, inequality, and injustice across their respective fields. By hiring these new faculty in cohorts, WSU aims to build a strong sense of community among them and thus ensure strong retention rates. The university also regularly solicits feedback from its faculty and staff to identify opportunities for bolstering the shared sense of community and support across the WSU system.
The IChange Network is one of several initiatives organized by the NSF INCLUDES Aspire Alliance, which is led by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. WSU’s colleagues in the network’s fifth cohort include the University of Colorado Boulder, Fort Valley State University, University of Illinois Chicago, Kent State University, University of Maine, University of Nebraska Omaha, and Wayne State University.
“We’re delighted to welcome eight public research universities to join in this critically important work,” Howard Gobstein, senior vice president for STEM education and research policy and director of Aspire Alliance, said in a Sept. 21 press release. “These institutions are laser-focused on supporting faculty so they can advance the public interest through their education, research, and engagement missions.”