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College of Arts and Sciences Names First Recipients of Inclusion Fellows Program

By Nick Harling

The University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences has named the first recipients of its Inclusion Fellows program, an initiative for faculty interested in actively orchestrating and advancing efforts to build a more inclusive campus.

Fellows can develop and implement scholarly, community-building, pedagogical, mentoring and networking events, initiatives or programming. The fellowship period serves as a professional development opportunity for the fellows, as it enables them to enhance their responsibilities and bring forth new ideas and measures that will positively affect students.

“The overall goal of the Inclusion Fellows Program is to draw on and support faculty to create sustainable change to enhance inclusivity within the college,” Cristina Alcalde, associate dean of inclusion and internationalization, said. “Over the course of next year, the fellows and I will meet as a group to discuss their projects as these develop, create broader networks of support for the initiatives and discuss additional ways to build a more inclusive college.”

The fellows for the 2018-19 academic year represent seven departments: Physics and Astronomy, Mathematics, Biology, English, Linguistics, Statistics, and Anthropology.

The A&S Inclusion Fellows are:

  • Doug Strachan, associate professor in physics and astronomy, will be focusing his fellowship on a physics conference for undergraduate women.
  • Kate Ponto, associate professor and Royster Research professor in mathematics, will work on increasing the number of women in mathematics, as well as inviting more women to UK as speakers and mentors.
  • Pete Mirabito, associate professor, and lecturer Erin Richard, both from biology, will work toward improving diversity in Peer Instructional Assistantships.
  • Jill Rappoport, associate professor and director of graduate studies in English, aims to recruit more underrepresented minorities (URM) and students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for master's and doctoral programs in coordination with other departments.
  • Rusty Barrett, associate professor and director of graduate studies in linguistics, will focus on the development of the Native American studies minor.
  • Kristen McQuerry, assistant professor of collaborative studies and lab director, and Assistant Professor Katherine Thompson, both in statistics, will be working to improve education for their female graduate students through encounters with successful female statisticians.
  • Erin Koch, associate professor and co-director of the Health, Society, and Populations (HSP) Program, and Associate Professor Mary Anglin in anthropology, will focus their efforts on teaching critical race studies, “whiteness,” and also mentoring underrepresented minority students.

Fellows receive a budget to produce and implement their proposed projects. Additionally, the college may coordinate with relevant centers or offices, such as the Center for Enhanced Learning and Teaching, the Martin Luther King Center, the Center for Graduate and Professional Diversity, the Office of LGBTQ* Resources, and the Center for Equality and Social Justice.

This year’s fellows have plans to magnify UK’s diverse makeup and improve the experiences of those who are part of it. “We are developing a program to recruit, train and professionally develop undergraduate studies from URM and diverse cultural backgrounds to serve as peer instructors in a non-majors microbiology laboratory,” Richard and Mirabito said. “The program will benefit students by providing peer mentors and a classroom community that better reflects the demographics of UK.”

“Our collaborative project consists of departmental workshops and an invited speaker series,” Koch and Anglin continued. “We aim to support and expand efforts in Anthropology to decolonize our approaches to teaching. It is exciting to have a part in facilitating collaborative discussions of academic approaches that are substantively committed to human rights and that recognize the crucial contributions of diverse and historically silenced voices.”

Since they’re located within the College of Arts and Sciences, UK’s largest college, the fellowships span many academic areas. “I’ll be working with departments within the college to develop courses with Native American/indigenous content with the hope of creating a new minor,” Barrett explained. “The college is supporting this effort by bringing Native American scholars to campus to work with departments on curricular development.”

“We aim to provide female statisticians a more balanced interaction with statisticians of all types during their graduate careers and encourage and enrich their graduate education through personal interactions with young, mid and late career statisticians by inviting successful female statisticians to interact personally with these students,” Mcquerry and Thompson added.  “Being early career females, we feel passionate to lead our female graduate students into the roles of successful statisticians.”

Interdisciplinary stereotypes are a point of focus, too. “Stereotypes of what mathematicians are like are really strong and really limiting,” Ponto said. “One of the best ways I know to challenge these stereotypes is to give students an opportunity to meet mathematicians that don’t fit them — that is the goal of my project.”

The support of these fellows shows a bright future for its departments, the college and the university.

“It’s an honor of course, to be named a fellow,” Strachan said, “but what makes me happiest is that it gives me great confidence that my department, college and the university as a whole have a very positive vision of what Physics and Astronomy can be at UK; that is, a vibrant, strong and inclusive group of researchers and educators studying this exciting and extremely diverse field of science.”

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue