Understanding how science diversity programs are implemented at two predominantly White research universities
Over the past 20 years, many colleges and universities have developed diversity support programs aimed at improving underrepresented minority student success in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. Developing such programs is important for facilitating higher minority-graduation rates in STEM and broadening the pipeline of minority students pursuing advanced degrees in science and medicine. Extensive research has been conducted that examines specific program components and their proposed impact on minority academic-achievement outcomes. However, far fewer inquiries have been performed that enhance our understanding of how institutions successfully integrate these programs into existing academic units and cultures.
Through a multiple case-study approach, this research explored how science diversity programs were started and sustained at two predominantly White research institutions, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Miami. To that end, key factors that either led to or inhibited change were examined, such as administrative buy-in, mission alignment, faculty engagement, organizational culture, financial support, and program leadership, through one-on-one interviews with science faculty, staff, and administrators. Data collected from state legislative documents, federal court opinions, national policy statements, institutional strategic plans, institutional websites, academic annual reports, and printed program materials were also used to construct the case studies.
Applying organizational change theory as the conceptual framework, the study suggests that four important components of a successful program start and sustain efficacy: alignment with the existing culture of the science unit in which the program resides; beginning with smaller efforts centered around particular themes or goals; faculty and administrative buy-in; and a program-sustainability plan established through mainstreaming strategies, faculty incentives, predictable funding streams, and leadership succession planning. Additionally, the findings show that in order to effectively implement the four components of creating successful change, placing a passionate, committed leader at the helm of the initiative is critical for program viability. The programs studied at each campus offer lessons and insights for others seeking to create and implement science diversity programs at comparable institutions.
0449: Educational leadership
0745: Higher education