CIC Collaboration Awarded NSF-AGEP Transformation Funding

Oct 01, 2013

The National Science Foundation’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate program (AGEP) has granted Transformation awards to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for $1,071,760 (Award #: 1309028) and to Purdue University for $345,740 (Award #: 1309173) to support the Committee on Institutional Cooperation’s Professorial Advancement Initiative (PAI). The duration of the award is 41 months.  

The AGEP program targets strategic alliances of institutions and organizations to develop, implement, and study innovative evidence-based models and standards for STEM graduate education, postdoctoral training, and academic STEM career preparation that eliminates or mitigates negative factors and promotes positive practices for Under-Represented Minorities (URM).  

The underrepresentation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans in STEM graduate programs is well known and remains an issue of national concern. Even more acute is the degree of underrepresentation of these racial and ethnic groups in STEM faculty positions in American institutions of higher learning, which impacts the ability of universities to attract and retain underrepresented minority students. The CIC AGEP PAI seeks to address this problem through a systematic, multi-institutional cultural change designed to increase the progression of URM postdocs into the professoriate.  

The CIC’s PAI is centered around two objectives:  
  • Creating a pool of URM post-doctoral fellows prepared and trained to enter the academy as tenure track faculty.
  • Educating faculty and faculty search committees about unconscious bias and diversity hiring. 
The initiative will develop mentoring networks across CIC universities, with support and professional development for both mentees and mentors.  At the same time, it will explore how faculty search committees can be educated to think more holistically and objectively in making hiring decisions to broaden participation in the academy.

The CIC AGEP PAI is a collaboration between the University of Illinois and Purdue University to partner with other university members of the CIC: Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. CIC Associate Director and PAI Principal Investigator Amber Marks will work closely with the CIC Graduate Deans, including co-PI Mark JT Smith (Purdue), Janet Weiss (Michigan), and John Keller (Iowa), as well as designated AGEP Directors at each campus to launch this innovative project.  

The anticipated outcome of achieving the programmatic goal is to increase the number of URM faculty hired in the CIC. Quantitatively, the steady-state goal is to double the rate at which URM candidates are hired into tenure-track positions in the CIC.  Because the CIC produces 14% of all Ph.D. degrees and 18% of all engineering doctoral degrees granted in the United States each year, diversifying the CIC faculty would have noticeable national significance. If successful, the CIC network could be easily expanded to the Association of American Universities (AAU), which embodies 59 U.S. universities and hosts 65% of the university postdocs in the nation.

In announcing the award, the CIC’s Amber Marks, noted the potential impact of the initiative, “Should the proposed model prove successful as hoped, the benefits of the resulting cultural change are potentially transformational on a national scale.”
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