Pitt joins initiative to increase diversity in STEM faculty


The University of Pittsburgh will join 18 universities in a three-year institutional change initiative to develop more inclusive faculty recruitment, hiring and retention practices.

The Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty program aims to increase diversity among science, technology, engineering and mathematics faculty and make sure STEM faculty are using inclusive teaching practices, according to a University news release.

This program also will help the University gather information on its current efforts related to this work and help it develop an action plan to increase diversity, equity and inclusion among its nearly 4,500 STEM faculty. Overall, Pitt has 76 STEM departments and seven schools with a STEM focus, according to the news release.

John Wallace, vice provost for Faculty Diversity and Development, said the University has taken a step in the right direction by joining this program.

“Pitt has clearly demonstrated their commitment to addressing diversity, equity and inclusion,” Wallace said. “This is just another piece in our puzzle as we build this work out. It’s actually pretty exciting to have the external validation that recognizes our work.”

This program is especially beneficial to the University since people of color are “woefully underrepresented” in the STEM fields, which affects the University’s competitiveness, Wallace said.

One of the goals and potential outcomes of increasing STEM faculty diversity is an increase in diversity, equity and inclusion among STEM students, Wallace added.

An improvement in diversity, equity and inclusion among STEM faculty leads to an increase in unique ideas, perspectives and innovation that could benefit society beyond the Pitt community, he said.

“It’s ultimately a win-win for the students but also for the broader society as we innovate, as we’re faced with the grand challenges of COVID-19, ongoing issues of climate change, you name it. The need is there — we need an all hands on deck.”

The National Science Foundation funds the program, which is part of its INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) initiative, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities administers it. Pitt and the 18 other universities joining the program bring the total number of participating universities to 54. 

“It is an honor to be recognized by the APLU and we look forward to the collaborations and new learning that will emerge as we participate in the alliance,” Provost Ann Cudd said in the release. “Through our participation in this STEM-focused program, we hope to deepen and develop strategies to support diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for our faculty and students in all fields.”

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905.


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