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As we commit to equity, a strategy identified by the College of Natural Sciences Action Team and where we are focusing is on:

Improving evaluation and assessment, data availability, data-informed decision-making and organizational accountability through:
  • establishment of a college assessment task force for data management, reporting, and documentation to oversee ensuring transparency about and strategy for all DEI assessments, audits, and surveys (e.g., climate surveys, salary equity audits, service equity audits, DEI effort reports, etc.) and to recommend new efforts aimed at better understanding equity issues related to retention and attrition (e.g., compensation audits and strategic exit-interviews before and after departures).
  • updating and reinforcing equity-focused teaching policies and practices (e.g., peer assessment teaching forms).
  • establishing new processes and resources for valuing DEI efforts, with new opportunities for compensation (e.g., stipends, teaching waivers, and formal volunteer hours) and new and continuing models for accounting for these efforts in promotions, evaluations, and college honors/awards.
  • redefinition of systems of providing service credit and value for outreach

Examples of Progress

  • New and expanded equity-focused efforts around teaching evaluation and professional development, such as the Texas Mindset Initiative and other TIDES offerings for faculty, including mid-career surveys, peer observations, expert evaluations.
  • New and ongoing college climate assessments are being administered via surveys to faculty, graduate students and undergraduates
  • Created a DEI Graduate Student Fellowship to help support and compensate contributions to DEI work made by thoughtful Ph.D. student leaders, ensuring they have ongoing connections to college leadership and a voice in new initiatives. Similarly, established mechanisms to compensate key stakeholders enlisted to help specific units advance DEI.
  • Established a DEI Data Task Force, which is identifying data needs and available sources of data, as well as recommended actionable strategies for improving data transparency, data availability and data-informed decision making aimed at advancing more equitable college practices.

Priorities for the future:

  • Implement a new CNS demographic data dashboard and data ticketing system, per recommendations of the DEI Data Task Force
  • Develop next steps regarding results of climate surveys, identifying areas for change in practice/priorities
  • Introduce strategies for advancing DEI through faculty annual reviews/staff performance evaluations
  • Use a DEI lens in analysis of outreach efforts in the college.
  • Improve constancy, clarity, and connections to practice with contributions-to-diversity statements
  • Expand staff and faculty onboarding so that it includes signaling of college values and provides newcomers with an understanding of the students we serve
  • Expand exit interviews to better identify DEI-related contributors to challenges in employee retention
  • Audit current faculty committee commitments for more equitable expectations of service

As we commit to equity, a strategy identified by the College of Natural Sciences Action Team and where we are focusing is on:

Improving the climate in ways that all community members feel safe, supported, included and seen at multiple levels—from departments to individual programs to Dean’s Office leadership—through:
  • first acknowledging the inequitable history in our disciplines and on our campus, including through modules in our curriculum and clear statements of our diversity, equity, and inclusion values, including through prominent displays on campus that provide more context about historic injustices at UT and beyond.
  • new efforts to highlight the perspectives, stories and voices of community members from historically marginalized groups, including in college communication, events and regular meetings with college leaders.
  • expanding engagement with institutions and groups outside of UT that serve communities of color, so that we are intentional partners with groups the college has rarely or never reached.
  • development of college-wide teaching and mentoring resources, including new courses and curriculum modules (from discipline-specific history lessons to parts of the college’s ); relevant seminar series and evidence-based trainings; and new mentoring and career development programs.

Examples of Progress

Priorities for the future:

  • Put a college-wide focus on improving mentoring, ensuring systems are in place to provide graduate students and postdocs, as well as staff and undergraduates, consistent and positive mentoring from faculty, where applicable
  • Develop undergraduate course modules (from standalone class to case studies and resources for use in existing courses, across disciplines) that help instructors discuss histories of inequities within science
  • Continue to work with university leadership on the contextualization project in Painter Hall and provide contextualization also in the Physics, Math and Astronomy building.
  • Expanded and improve training, professional development and toolkits for employees, from partnering with STEM Education and third-party experts, to continuing reading groups and our event series with authors to holding more Sprint events to engage students in problem-solving pertaining to equity challenges at UT and in society

As we commit to equity, a strategy identified by the College of Natural Sciences Action Team and where we are focusing is on:

Continuing and expanding upon recruitment and retention efforts aimed at improving the way our college supports people with marginalized identities such as Black, indigenous and people of color.

  • diversify our faculty by developing postdoc-to-faculty bridge programs; assuring dedicated resources for new hires; and planning a new visiting scholars’ program
  • extend a welcome mat to students of color through: coordination of cross-sector recruitment events; expansion of summer research opportunities for prospective undergraduate and graduate students; reevaluation of application practices (such as standardized tests and application fees) that may unnecessarily stand in the way of qualified and talented students seeking admission; and allocating appropriate resources for fellowships, scholarships, new hires and affiliated and outreach efforts.

Examples of Progress:

  • Partnered with the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost for the Provost Early Career Fellowship in partnership with the Departments of Integrative Biology, Neuroscience, and Astronomy.
  • Initiated multiple efforts to attract, recruit, and employ a diverse faculty and/or faculty who demonstrate past or potential contributions to DEI within their research, teaching and/or service
  • Reevaluated standard admissions practices with equity implications, such as the GRE requirement for graduate program admissions. University-wide the GRE was suspended as a requirement during the pandemic, and three departments have successfully instated permanent waivers.
  • Saw departments and individual units take steps forward related to recruitment and retention, such as:

Priorities for the future:

  • Introduce a faculty visiting scholars’ program
  • Further enhance summer research opportunities for prospective graduate students from underrepresented populations in the mode of the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences’ program
  • Partner with Austin Community College and with the Dell Medical School on pathways programs to support career success for CNS students from underrepresented populations

Committing to a more inclusive and equitable Texas Science community

We are determined to help address longstanding inequalities in society and to be a welcoming community where students, faculty and staff of many backgrounds experience belonging and thrive. In Natural Sciences, we will take actions to improve the college climate; ensure institutional accountability; and champion the recruitment, retention and support of individuals from populations historically marginalized in the sciences.

Background

The College's strategic framework, originally developed in 2019, was created through a listening process with faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders and supplemented the following year, amid further listening sessions linked to a nationwide and global reckoning around race. A set of recommendations produced by a 15-member Action Team in 2020 helped to synthesize and identify equity-focused priorities, many of them complimentary to efforts also happening within departments and units of the college.

Addressing these strategies is a process we know takes time and involvement from everyone. Please follow the links below for more about our ongoing work. These periodic updates are not meant to be exhaustive lists of all DEI efforts, but rather shared examples of how this work is unfolding. The updates are an effort to be better connected, more transparent and perpetually accountable in this ongoing work. These updates also aim to inspire continued action across all levels of the college, as meaningful improvements in college climate and equity requires efforts at all levels of policy and practice.

Strategies

The college is working to advance change through three core strategies:

College-wide Commitment to Progress

Improving equity and racial justice must be omnipresent across the College of Natural Sciences. It is the responsibility of all leaders and teams, not the responsibility of our Action Team members or any single individual, task force or unit. The "Committing to Equity" recommendations are being executed with support from all college leaders as an integral part of CNS strategy. Overall efforts are shepherded significantly through the Office of Strategy and Planning, and many faculty-focused initiatives are also the focus of College Diversity and Inclusion Officer and special advisor to the dean for diversity, equity and inclusion Shelley Payne.

Questions, thoughts and concerns about this area for action, or others in the college’s Strategic Framework, may be directed to Senior Assistant Dean for Strategy and Equity Initiatives Melissa Taylor: Melissa.Taylor@cns.utexas.edu.