UTPA Report: Encouraging diversity on campus

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 8:40am

The University of Texas Pan American is taking steps to encourage more diversity on campus, Jennifer Berghom reports.

More than half the students at UTPA are female, but female faculty members, especially those in higher ranks, remain the minority. That's why UTPA has been working on encouraging more women to pursue careers in higher education and promoting diversity in leadership on campus.

Dr. Marie Mora, UTPA Faculty Affairs, "So the hope is that when female students see our female faculty members they serve as very good role models and hopefully will inspire them to pursue higher education, higher level than a bachelor's degree."

UTPA received a #3.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to recruit more female faculty members in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. However, UTPA has expanded its outreach to include all educators, regardless of their gender or subjects they teach. Dr. Mora, Professor and Vice Provost Fellow for Faculty Affairs, has been involved in developing programs under the advance grant.

She says these initiatives are meant to transform the university so that everyone benefits, "Well we want to have a much more family friendly and a very positive climate for all faculty members here. We certainly want to see women in STEM advancing and that's the particular purpose of the program, but we want to make the whole faculty better off as a result of these initiatives, so that this is going to be a place of choice for faculty to come to."

Programs that have been created from the advance grant include a leadership institute, a woman's faculty network and a fellowship program that gives educators hands-on experience in administration.

Most recently, UTPA has held a dual career symposium to talk about ways the university can encourage more couples who work in academia to come here, "Part of it is to raise awareness about how important dual career couples, dual career hiring programs can be because if we want to recruit and retain women a lot of times they have spouses or partners that might have a difficult time finding jobs. So if we want to make this a family friendly environment, we certainly want to find ways to raise awareness about programs that we can use to hire spouses and partners."

So far, UTPA's initiatives have received praise from the national science foundation and other universities from across the nation are seeking advice from UTPA, "It's certainly a way of getting national recognition, but it's also very rewarding because we're seeing that the things we're doing, we think they're very exciting, and to get feedback from other institutions, to say what we're doing is very innovative, it's extremely rewarding."

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