Goal One: World Class People

Goal One of the university’s strategic plan emphasizes attracting superior students, staff and faculty to Michigan Tech. Universities have long been defined as seats of learning, and diversity of thought and ideas within their walls by excellent scholars has been identified as essential to achievement of this. Recently other forms of diversity, especially the presence and involvement of fully diverse groups of people, have come to be recognized as a key feature of excellent universities. Michigan Tech and the College of Sciences and Arts embrace this idea and seek to create a student body guided by faculty and supported by staff who fully reflect the gender, ethnic, and international diversity of the society of which they are a part.

Quality

The central aim of improving the quality of the people in the college is pursued in terms of both students and faculty and staff. Thus CSA has long held that possession of a terminal degree is a requirement for permanent and nearly all temporary faculty. In addition, the quality of the faculty will be apparent in the discussion of programs and research in the other strategic goals. In terms of student quality, a basic metric is found in the ACT test scores of incoming students . The pattern in CSA is one of slow but steady improvement in this area, as CSA matches university trends. For this update, the college has chosen to emphasize the goal of bringing the average ACT scores in English up to the same level as the math scores currently posted by entering students—26. (See section on metrics.)

Diversity

Efforts to create a fully diverse community is complicated by Michigan Tech’s geographic location and the community that surrounds it. Further compounding the challenge is the existing demographic structure of the engineering and scientific fields emphasized by this university. Even so, as of spring 2010 CSA has enjoyed some success in diversifying its faculty. It boasts a reasonable (but not perfect) gender balance among students and faculty but, like all of the university, struggles to improve the racial and ethnic diversity of faculty and the student body.

Appendix 1 documents the slow progress in broadening the diversity of CSA faculty. Our faculty remains at least 70% Caucasian, and approximately two-thirds male. Obviously, there is more to be done in this area, but it is clear that the college’s ratios are higher than the overall university average. The college has been quite successful in improving the gender balance of faculty over the past five years. As documented in Appendix 2, between 2004-05 and 2008-09 the college made 59 tenure-track hires, of which 30 were female. Only three of these faculty have since left the university. Two examples typify departmental efforts. Over the past three years, Mathematical Sciences has interviewed 12 female and 15 males in the course of its searches, and made offers to 8 women and 9 men. The department succeeded in hiring 2 female and 4 male faculty, but three searches failed after all candidates turned down the offers. Social Sciences made 6 hires during the 2008-09 academic year (3 females and 3 males), one of whom was international. In addition, of the seven lecturers hired in CSA during the five-year period 2004-2009, five were female. The college is proud of this record, but the Mathematics examples demonstrate several factors that challenge our efforts: Houghton’s location, the kind of university we are and Michigan Tech’s academic reputation, the salaries offered, and the limited opportunities for spousal employment. The college is working on these issues, but some fall outside CSA’s influence or control.

The college has experienced less success in addressing other aspects of faculty and staff diversity. Attempts to recruit faculty from under-represented groups have shown much less success, with only four new faculty coming from these groups since 2005. Factors complicating recruitment efforts include the ability to persuade candidates from under-represented groups to apply for positions and then to accept offers for the same reasons just noted. Similarly, the professional staff employed in CSA is relatively homogeneous, both in terms of racial background (Caucasian) and gender (60% female). Moreover, women are concentrated in clerical and administrative aide positions.

From the university perspective, student diversity also has proven resistant to change, but the college starts from a stronger position than other units on campus. The accompanying table and (in greater detail) Appendix 3 documents that, like the faculty, CSA students are predominantly Caucasian (at least 80%). This ratio reflects an improvement compared to 2006, thanks primarily to the significant increase in the number of international students (from 24 to 136). Under-represented minorities , however, account for only 13%—and 4.2% of these are in the “not reported” category. The college’s numbers are better than the university as a whole in almost every area, but remain beneath the university targets for 2013. In terms of gender mix, CSA does much better. About 36% of the students enrolled in CSA are female—compared to 23.4% university-wide. And in half of CSA’s departments, females account for more than half of their majors: Biological Sciences (58.5%), Cognitive & Learning Sciences (57.1%), Exercise Science (51.8%), Humanities,2 and Social Sciences (52.9%). Other departments have work to do, notably computer science—a field that is predominantly male across all universities. But sustained efforts have increased the percentage of female students in CS from 4.1% in 2005 to 5.5% in 2008, and 7.9% of the freshman entering in fall 2009 were female.

DepartmentUG (%)MS (%)PhD (%)
 FemaleMaleFemaleMaleFemaleMale
Biological Sciences58.541.555.644.42575
Chemistry53.146.933.366.73664
Cognitive & Learning Sciences57.142.962.537.5  
Computer Science5.594.526.773.31684
Exercise Science51.848.2    
Humanities40.659.488.911.152.647.4
Mathematical Sciences37.562.533.366.75248
Physics19.380.7010027.372.7
Social Sciences52.947.144.455.60100
Visual & Performing Arts16.383.7    
General Sciences & Arts42.957.1    
COLLEGE TOTAL35.9%64.1%48.6%51.4%34.9%65.1%

Graduate student enrollment in CSA conforms to patterns apparent in most U.S. universities, as increasing numbers of international students fill graduate ranks while domestic students show declining interest in science and engineering disciplines. About 40% of the college’s graduate enrollment is international and 52% are female; about 15% of the students are from under-represented minority groups or not reported (Appendix 3). The percentage of international students matches the university average, but the ratios of female and under-represented groups are significantly above university averages. Indeed, the percentage of female graduate students enrolled is significantly above the university targets for 2013.

The results are at best mixed, then, and standing above university averages does not absolve the college from continuing its efforts to create a more diverse community of learners, teachers, and researchers. The college will pursue several activities that support diversity building, focusing on efforts likely to be valuable to more than one department. These include:

  1. identifying ways to increase efforts to recruit international students, undergraduate but especially graduate students. The college will seek to enhance existing connections between faculty (physics and chemistry in particular) with universities in India, and perhaps reaching to China;
  2. supporting efforts to take advantage of U.S. State Department programs that support and assist the recruitment of international students. (The Humanities Department is taking the lead in this area);
  3. expanding the familiarity of admissions recruiters with our majors and programs, with the aim of removing the continuing lack of awareness of the range of programs offered within CSA;
  4. underwriting the participation of a CSA faculty member or chair at every SACNES meeting for the next few years;
  5. supporting attempts to build bridges to tribal colleges, especially in Wisconsin, with the Mathematical Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Social Sciences departments taking the lead in this activity; and
  6. pressing for the development of stronger maternity leave policies and the development of lactation stations for nursing mothers.

But perhaps the most important college-level effort to enhance the diversity of students enrolled at Michigan Tech involves insuring support for both existing and new programs and offerings that are attractive to the general population of students and learners interested in higher education. Degree offerings in psychology, anthropology, and exercise science added within the past decade point the way, for these programs already attract a higher percentage of female students. New programs in the arts that also support the vibrant campus life and encourage student retention, possess a similar potential that needs to be realized.

Each department in the college takes seriously the responsibility for improving diversity. The diversity plan worksheets contained in Appendix 4 illustrate both the challenges faced and the steps by which CSA department intend to make progress. Several steps proposed by individual departments are worth highlighting in this regard. Most departments intend to devote significant attention to recruiting, even though neither the college nor any departments have designated staff for recruiting purposes. Cognitive & Learning Sciences, for example, expects to return to the labor-intensive activity of directly contacting students, now that its faculty numbers allow the program to again grow. Equally significant are the department’s success in securing funding through STEM education and K-12 grants, for a side-effect of these projects is the opportunity to build outreach and recruitment connections to urban school districts attended by under-represented minority students. Computer Science will continue to seek funds to renew its summer programs for female high school students. Exercise Science also will broaden its effort to attract students from under-represented groups, utilizing external research funding from NIH and other sponsors’ for summer research in the same fashion that such support has assisted efforts to develop a predominantly female student population. Humanities is institutionalizing activities that will continue to enhance this highly diverse department. The inauguration of a diversity minor, the integration of the ESL program into the department’s intellectual life, and the development of a certificate in teaching English as a second language all should advance this goal. In addition, Humanities faculty will extend their graduate student recruitment efforts to eastern Europe and Africa. Mathematical Sciences will continue the efforts that have resulted in the enrollment of females as 40% of its undergraduates and 31% of its graduate population. Physics will continue similar efforts, which have included the recruitment of a female faculty member, as it seeks to remain above the national average for the enrollment of women in both its graduate and undergraduate programs. And Social Sciences hopes to strengthen research connections to Puerto Rico that have the potential to grow into undergraduate and graduate exchange programs and reach out to Native American students in a partnership with Biological Sciences and Educational Opportunities.

Mentoring

Insuring that faculty can be successful in the classroom and in their research and scholarship is an important part of the long-term success of diversifying the campus. It makes little sense to recruit promising faculty and then watch them struggle to build successful academic careers. During the last decade when hiring was occasionally problematic because of budgetary realities, this matter might have seemed less important, but the hiring of 22 new faculty in 2008-09 brought this issue to the forefront. With the assistance of the NSF Advance grant awarded to Michigan Tech in 2008, the college has been working to improve its efforts to mentor faculty. The college will pursue a number of activities that assist faculty across the college, while departments adopt programs that fit the specific needs of their disciplines. (See Appendix 5 for the complete plans.) Steps by CSA include the formal process of annual evaluations of tenure-track faculty, as well as the following:

  1. The dean and college will provide direction and support, in cooperation with the graduate school, college of engineering, and the vice-president for research, for an annual workshop on the preparation of CAREER proposals for submission to the National Science Foundation. The college also will work with the same partners to develop a similar event for faculty seeking to develop projects supported by the National Institutes of Health.
  2. The dean and college will sponsor a social/professional meeting for new faculty at the end of their first year to discuss general patterns for success, to review the tenure and promotion process, to identify tools and resources for addressing problems. The event is intended to allow faculty to raise concerns with the dean and identify challenges they are facing.
  3. The dean will host college-level teaching workshops at least twice each year. These sessions will focus upon teaching issues and challenges encountered by CSA faculty. William Kennedy of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Faculty Development will assist in organizing and directing these events, which will draw upon faculty within the college who are recognized as innovative and superior teachers.
  4. The college will develop or support an annual open meeting to discuss the Research Excellence Fund (REF) competition and the various categories of programs. A post-REF discussion will be offered to help faculty understand the strengths and weaknesses of proposals.
  5. As a supplement to the new faculty orientation, the college will sponsor or support a session designed to introduce faculty to significant members of the research and funding group, including the Tech Fund, and the research and sponsored programs personnel, and the vice-president for research’s staff.
  6. The college will function as a clearing house for information about various professional development activities held on campus, disseminating to the departments announcements about workshops or information sessions held by the graduate school, the research and sponsored programs office, and the vice-president for research.

In the pursuit of the 1st Goal of the strategic plan, much more remains to be accomplished. The College of Sciences and Arts and its departments are deeply committed to creating a community of teachers and learners—students, faculty and staff—that grows ever stronger intellectually and academically and reflects the full diversity of contemporary society.


2. Humanities percentages as shown for 2008 are skewed by the decision to include within their total count those students enrolled in the preparatory and non-degree English as a Second Language program. These international students tend to be predominantly male.