Students sitting on a wall.

Diversity and Inclusion

Access for the Future

A STEM degree has its advantages. A recent study by the Pew Research Center indicated that workers in STEM fields enjoy a pay advantage over workers in non-STEM fields, and that STEM training in college is associated with higher earnings, even if the person is not working in STEM.

That same report, however, showed that in computer-related jobs—the highest-paying and fastest-growing STEM sector— the number of women was decreasing. In 1990, women accounted for 32 percent of workers in computer occupations. In 2018, that share had dropped to 25 percent.

The Pew report went on to reveal that blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented across all sectors of the STEM workforce, except for health care practitioners and technicians (where they still accounted for only 11 percent of the workforce).

“To me diversity is more than a to-do list. It’s not just about inviting guest speakers that are diverse or having events to celebrate the inclusion of diverse peoples. It’s more about how we integrate those lessons into just being who we are. You want others to know, this is the way it is at Michigan Tech. This is what you can expect from our community. Daily.”

Valoree Gagnon portrait.
Valoree Gagnon
Research Assistant Professor, 2018 University Diversity Award recipient

Unfortunately, the Pew report was not shocking. The lack of diversity in STEM fields is well known and well documented. And here at Michigan Tech—widely referred to as a STEM school—we face the same problem. In 2019, our incoming undergraduate class will be the most diverse in University history, yet women will not account for even 30 percent of our student body, and underrepresented minorities will account for less than 10 percent of undergraduate enrollment.

In other words, we have work to do. Our objective as an institution is to create and maintain learning, working, and living environments where students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds feel they can thrive. This includes members of the LGBTQIA+ community, ethnic and racial minorities, women, and individuals with disabilities. To reach this goal, we are:

  • Committing as an institution to the sustained support of diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Implementing a cross-campus education initiative for all members of the Michigan Tech community
  • Increasing the diversity of faculty, staff, and the student body through targeted and well-supported recruitment strategies
  • Collaborating and supporting retention programs and initiatives designed to educate and support a diverse campus community

In working toward these goals, we hope to change the face of STEM.

Students at commencement in caps and gowns.
Women’s Outreach, coordinated by Michigan Tech’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, works to create an environment that encourages the academic, professional, and leadership development of enrolled undergraduate and graduate women.

ADVANCE the Workforce

A more diverse STEM workforce starts with more diverse faculty. To make that a reality, an interdisciplinary team has a goal: measurable increases in retention and career advancement of women and under-represented minorities at Michigan Tech within the next three years. Among the initiatives are career development teams, programs addressing intersectional disadvantages, and managerial training for chairs.

Original efforts began with former Provost Leslie Lovett-Doust and a team of faculty who earned a $500,000 ADVANCE grant in 2008 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a recruitment program that would attract more women to Michigan Tech. Now, NSF has granted Michigan Tech Faculty Adrienne Minerick, Patricia Sotirin, Sonia Goltz, and Andrew Storer $1 million to continue the work.

Two people working in a lab.
At Michigan Tech’s Stem Cell and Tissue Engineering Laboratory, Associate Professor Feng Zhao and a team of researchers develop innovative cell therapies to create 3D scaffold-free tissue constructs and are working to recreate a biomimetic micro-environment for 3D tissue development.

“We are inspired by, but not bound to, the work of similar teams on other campuses,” Sotirin says. “We look forward to the collaborative development of programs that are responsive to our uniqueness and that open new possibilities for campus culture change, equity, and success.”

The three-year grant will focus on several initiatives, including the ongoing ADVANCE Matrix Process for University Programs (AMP-UP). AMP-UP is a systematic, data-driven, continuous improvement process instituted to address faculty retention, satisfaction, and career progress.

It’s considered a model process for collaborative, efficient decision-making, enabling a climate of inclusiveness and equity that empowers all members of the University community to reach their career goals.

“AMP-UP was instrumental to understanding key career obstacles on campus as well as what programs could be used to address those problems. The application of continuous improvement has been done at other universities, but has rarely been done in the academic arm.”

Sonia Goltz portrait.
Sonia Goltz
Professor of Organizational Behavior in Michigan Tech's School of Business and Economics

The ADVANCE program itself is an integral part of the NSF’s strategy to broaden participation in the STEM workforce and advance the status of women and underrepresented faculty in academic science and engineering. Since 2001, the NSF has invested more than $270 million to support ADVANCE projects at more than 100 institutions of higher education and STEM-related not-for-profit organizations in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.