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Fueled by $10M NSF award, UT System joins effort to increase diversity among STEM scholars and faculty

UT institutions will enhance impact through RISE UPP Alliance

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $10 million grant – titled “RISE UPP”:  Re-Imagining STEM Equity Utilizing Postdoctoral Pathways Alliance – to four institutions and university systems, including the University of Texas System, as part of its NSF INCLUDES Alliance.

Through RISE-UPP, The UT System and its partners will collaborate on initiatives designed to help minoritized postdoctoral scholars earn tenure-track positions and increase diverse representation among STEM faculty. RISE UPP is led by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and also includes the Texas A&M University System and the University of North Carolina System. 

Collectively enrolling more than 240,000 students, 51% of whom identify as minority, the UT System is one of the largest and most diverse systems of higher education in the country. In addition, UT ranks second in the nation for federal research expenditures among public higher education systems, making it an ideal partner for this important work that will benefit its eight academic institutions – UT Arlington, UT Austin, UT Dallas, UT El Paso, UT Permian Basin, UT Rio Grande Valley, UT San Antonio and UT Tyler.

Archie Holmes, UT System Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, will work closely with leaders from the eight UT academic institutions to coordinate participation in the NSF INCLUDES Alliance. He said the initiative will support UT’s system-wide efforts to nurture diversity and create more opportunities for populations that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

“This grant recognizes and supports the on-going efforts UT institutions are making to diversify and enrich the pipeline of talent into academia and ultimately improve representation among university faculty,” Holmes said. “The UT System is deeply appreciative of the NSF’s support of diversity and inclusion in higher education and we look forward to working with our INCLUDES Alliance colleagues to achieve lasting faculty diversity across our institutions.”

Overall, NSF is investing more than $39 million in the INCLUDES Alliances in order to bring institutions together to strengthen equity in STEM education and careers, while also addressing diversity, inclusion and participation challenges in STEM at a national level

Provost John Wiebe of UT El Paso also expressed gratitude toward the NSF’s support of diversity and inclusion in STEM, and believes the collaborative nature of RISE UPP will help magnify the program’s impact.

“The grant provides the opportunity to scale this transformational work with like-minded institutions at the system level, focusing on postdoctoral STEM preparation and developing, evaluating, and disseminating strategies that promote the success of minoritized scholars,” Wiebe said. “We are committed to learning with and from our colleagues at other Texas and North Carolina schools, and building models that can be helpful at the national level.”

Kimberly Andrews Espy, UT San Antonio’s Provost, said the diversification of faculty will ultimately uplift diverse student bodies like UTSA’s.

“Diversifying our faculty is critical to the success of our students and the economic competitiveness of our state and nation,” Andrews Espy said. “Through participation in the RISE UPP project, we will be able to share and learn from best practices across our institutions to intentionally support and facilitate the transition from postdoctoral study to faculty positions, and further our progress in recruiting outstanding faculty to the benefit of our community.”

RISE UPP focuses on four areas intended to make campus cultures and structures more inclusive: (1) providing training and professional development and building community to support postdoctoral scholars from underrepresented groups; (2) facilitating the assessment and implementation of institutions’ efforts to ensure cultural transformation can be sustained; (3) helping institutions create systemic pathways that enable postdocs from underrepresented groups to access tenure-track positions; and (4) developing and supporting faculty who serve as mentors for postdoctoral fellows and junior colleagues through training, compensation, recognition and advocacy.

About The University of Texas System

For more than 130 years, The University of Texas System has been committed to improving the lives of Texans and people all over the world through education, research and health care. With 13 institutions, an enrollment of more than 243,000 students and an operating budget of $23.4 billion (FY 2022), the UT System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States. UT institutions produce more than 67,000 graduates annually and award more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and more than half of its medical degrees. Collectively, UT-owned and affiliated hospitals and clinics accounted for more than 8.6 million outpatient visits and almost 1.8 million hospital days in 2020. UT institutions also are among the most innovative in the world, collectively ranking No. 4 for most U.S. patents granted in 2020, and the UT System is No. 1 in Texas and No. 2 in the nation in federal research expenditures. The UT System also is one of the largest employers in Texas, with more than 21,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates and members of the National Academies – and more than 85,000 health care professionals, researchers and support staff.

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