We aim to propel the journeys and passions of individuals in our community.
Such efforts also necessarily ignite a strong sense of belonging, community and purpose for our students, staff and faculty in our shared work to serve Texas, the United States and the world.
5. Foster opportunities and an environment where people thrive on discovery and receive support
- In today’s world, students need an array of experiences both inside and outside the classroom to compete for graduate school admission or top industry jobs, and access to these experiences, which often take place over summer months, should not be limited to those with higher family incomes. Expanding access to experiences outside of the traditional classroom environment for students to participate in research, internships and study abroad trips is a key goal, as the college works to reduce disparities for students from families with low to middle incomes to participate in experiential learning opportunities.* ~
Inclusive Campaigns like You Belong Here
- CNS wants to embed in its spaces, touch points and events explicit signals of welcome, inclusion and belonging for our students, staff and faculty. We are continually examining ways to bolster community-based values and experiences for everyone in Texas Science.*
Offering Students a DEI Concentration
- The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Concentration facilitates students' exploration of DEI concepts through coursework and opportunities in order to develop skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a diverse world.*
Taking a Promotion Milestone From Associate to Partner
- The “From Associate to Partner” retreat for newly promoted associate professors in the College of Natural Sciences engages newly tenured faculty in an exploration of their hopes and goals for their life's work. The retreat is a two-day event filled with opportunities for mid-career faculty to interact and learn from senior-level faculty about new possibilities in service, research collaborations, teaching, administration, entrepreneurship and more.
- CNS is directing more focus to the essential role of wellbeing and health across our community, including a new College of Natural Sciences Student Mental Health Task Force — made up of faculty, staff and students — working to identify priorities for those in CNS with concerns and experiences related to mental health and create affiliated resources for students, faculty and staff.*
Student Sprint Experiences
- Sprints allow students to explore real-world problems for a day with opportunities to follow-up with other experiential programs. Sprint projects also can be focused around timely core themes, such as equity.
Advancing Mentorship College-Wide
- With careful consideration from a soon-to-be-established working group, a large-scale, multi-phased initiative will work to create resources for improving mentorship across students, faculty, staff and alumni. Such resources will include clarified job expectations, training workshops centered upon best practices, strategic intake and matching opportunities, timely conversation templates and timeline nudges, a new awards series, evaluation and feedback loops, toolkits for troubleshooting and more.*
Key Updates and Priorities for 2023–2024
Mentorship efforts advance: Multiple efforts are underway to improve mentoring of scientists and mathematicians in-training. Graduate students and postdoctoral scientists have helped to inform a new set of toolkits and supports, as well as an award program for faculty, related to mentoring in the college. With support from the dean’s office, a group of faculty have teamed up with the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) to bring quality mentoring training experiences back to multiple departments within the college and knowledge of best practices in mentoring college-wide. Up to 400 students will benefit from a partnership with STEM Muse, a mentorship program whose best practice toolkit was originally developed by neuroscience students at UT Austin.
Mental health and wellness resources: A new CNS Student Wellness Center has opened in PAI 3.04 where students can access services from non-academic coordinators, counselors in academic residence (CARE) and other wellness and support services. The college also piloted CNS Student Mental Health Ambassadors, a program that promotes healthy habits, reduce stigma and create a culture of care in CNS.
Associate to Partner retreat: Newly promoted faculty had their milestone celebrated in October 2022, as they engaged with university and state leaders, as well as guest faculty, to explore ideas around service, research collaborations, teaching, administration and entrepreneurship over a weekend in the fall. The college plans to offer this experience to newly-tenured faculty on a biannual basis.
Experiential learning reorganization: The Office of Undergraduate Education has organized an Office of Experiential Learning with a director whose work pertains to overseeing the college’s student community and engagement efforts in several domains, including Freshman Research Initiative, Inventors Program and various experiential learning offerings, including in work settings, study abroad, faculty labs, etc.
We aim to deliver excellence in all we do through outstanding personnel, operations and technology.
6. Hone our organizational practices to better understand our strengths and opportunities for improvement
College Climate Assessments
- New and ongoing efforts to listen and learn from our community members help inform and focus the work of the college. Improved coordination across faculty, student and staff climate surveys will allow us to better understand the climate of our college and the various units and organizations within it. Periodic updates on the findings of these surveys will help inform the work of various committees as well as affirm the voices of our college community, and college actions will be driven by lessons learned through the assessment process.*
Research/Practice Partnerships in Science Communication
New and expanding partnerships with the Moody College of Communication create expert-informed opportunities to train our scientists to be better communicators. With graduate student opportunities underway, the college is exploring new ways to systematically train our faculty. This research/practice partnership aims to explore public trust in science and science literacy as well as motivation and barriers to effective science communication.
Improved Data Leadership, Data Availability and Data-Informed Decision Making
- Informed by the Action Plan of Summer 2020, CNS has been worked to establish a college-wide Data Task Force to develop CNS data policies and ensure access to data to improve CNS outcomes. This group is closely monitoring the affiliated Data to Insights Initiative (D2I) that is planning for modern, cloud-scale technologies, analytics and broad engagement of all campus-wide data systems. The CNS Data Task Force also worked to establish a data ticketing system. This system provides a streamlined process for requesting data and/or requesting support for data queries.*
College Budget Planning Capacity-Building
- Working with key staff and leadership across the college, CNS will be designing new methods and training opportunities for strategic budgeting and optimal use of resources in alignment with strategic priorities.
Increasing Attention to Educational Technology
- Leveraging the disruptive technologies that have recently emerged as common teaching tools, the college will work to prioritize needs and opportunities, then create resources for learning, building and troubleshooting the use of technology in the classroom.~
Conducting Comprehensive Exit Interviews
- Systematic, standardized and centrally administered exit interviews will provide a more confidential and comprehensive understanding of why individuals choose to leave the college and university. This initiative aims to not only improve upon the employee experience in their final days on campus, but more holistically inform the college as to areas of strength and areas of needed improvement.
Key Updates and Priorities for 2023–2024
Comprehensive survey assessments & exit interviews: Systematic, standardized and centrally administered exit interviews for staff and faculty, along with a coordinated climate survey of all students, faculty and staff, each have provided information to help support continuous improvement efforts in the college over the last year. The data are helping to inform decisions on a range of topics, such as areas for professional development attention, awareness of broader trends that drive faculty or staff separations, what leads students to opt to leave the college and more.
Data-informed educational decisions: In partnership with enrollment analytics, leadership in Undergraduate Education is working to assess outcomes of its student success programs beyond retention and graduation rates; to better understand the impact of existing math, calculus and chemistry readiness initiatives; and to identify any gaps in supports or services for students entering the health professions. These are examples of priority areas of institutional research analysis and subsequent data-informed decision making.
Academic technology: With help from a new faculty fellow, academic technology trainings and resources were offered to faculty. The college collaborated with the Office of Academic Technology, UT ITS and Academic Technology Council to conduct a comprehensive, nine-month evaluation of learning technologies. This Learning Technology Adoption Process strategically reviewed options and led to the selection of Ed Discussion and sharing of resources with faculty.~
Science communication training: The college collaborated with a science-communication training organization, leveraging relationships with faculty in the Moody College, to offer three in-depth, day-long workshops to 57 faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral scientists on campus to help them development skills in discussing research topics.