Virginia Tech’s efforts to improve success among minority and marginalized student groups in STEM fields is being featured as the first case study of the American Talent Initiative’s (ATI) Academic Equity Community of Practice.

The ATI Academic Equity Community of Practice is focused on highlighting the ways in which colleges and universities have leveraged data and evidence-based research to enhance equity-related projects at member institutions. ATI is an alliance of high-graduation-rate colleges and universities committed to expanding access and opportunity for students from lower-income households.

The case study stems from a recent presentation by Jill Sible, associate vice provost for undergraduate education and professor of biological sciences, titled, “Using Data to Fuel Inclusive Excellence at Virginia Tech.” According to ATI, Sible’s presentation and the subsequent case study is bringing attention to the ways in which institutions can utilize data - both qualitative and quantitative - in institutional decision-making and further communitywide goals related to increasing equity in the academic experience.

“Data can provide some consistent measures to track our progress toward equity in student retention and success,” said Sible. “In recent years, Virginia Tech has invested in people and systems such as the University Data Commons and EAB Student Success Collaborative Navigate platform that put some of these critical data in the hands of those leading programs with diversity, equity and inclusion goals.”

The ATI case study highlights the centrality of equity-minded data aggregation and analysis in fueling inclusive excellence at Virginia Tech. This occurs using student success data to facilitate learning and buy-in amongst participating faculty, engaging in a collaborative and iterative process with faculty to identify high-impact areas for intervention through data analyses, and incorporating and empowering student and faculty voices through robust qualitative data collection and evaluation.

Through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence Program, Virginia Tech is strengthening its commitment to enhance and advance inclusive educational practices in the sciences. The program seeks to promote institutional change that supports the engagement and success of all students, especially those populations that have been historically underrepresented and underserved in the STEM disciplines.

“Like most institutions, Virginia Tech still has significant work ahead to meet the goals of inclusive excellence,” Sible said. “Much of that work falls upon our faculty, and the HHMI grant has revealed an incredible depth of commitment on the part of faculty, first to engage in the critical work of learning more about diversity, equity and inclusion, and then in implementing what they learned. Many of these faculty continue on in leadership roles which is essential for a sustained initiative.”

Sible continues to work alongside a core team of faculty and leaders from each department to advance student opportunities through the HHMI Inclusive Excellence grant. Academic departments engage in learning and developing projects to foster inclusion and success through inclusive pedagogy, addressing implicit biases and issues of climate in STEM classrooms, and creating curricular paths that are flexible and embedded with high-impact practices.

For more information, visit the Inclusive Excellence program website to learn more about the grant, departments participating, Faculty Scholars involved, and a list of current and former Student Fellows.

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