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Purdue diversity initiative promotes faculty innovation

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A new Purdue University initiative, led by the Office of the Provost, will leverage faculty-driven innovation to improve minority recruitment and retention. Known as the Diversity Transformation Award, the program will challenge faculty to conceive — and implement — projects that advance campus diversity.

This is the first initiative of its type to tap the talents and creativity of faculty in addressing diversity issues, said Deba Dutta, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and diversity.

“Our country is the most pluralistic and multicultural nation in the world,” said Dutta, who spearheads the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team and serves as the university’s chief diversity officer. “Purdue seeks to be a leader in mirroring the diversity of our nation and world.  One of the intended outcomes of the Diversity Transformation Award program is to create an environment where faculty, students and staff all benefit from combined knowledge and shared cultures.”

Purdue is investing $1,000,000 to launch the initiative and will fund five to eight faculty proposals for two-year terms (up to $150,000 per project). A complete description of the program, submission guidelines and examples of proposal ideas are available at https://www.purdue.edu/diversity-inclusion/faculty/dta/index.html

A faculty review panel will be engaged in the proposal selection process, starting with a review of five-minute oral presentations (followed by questions and answers). Panelists will then select a subset of proposals for a second round of presentations. Video recordings of the proposals will be posted online for the campus community, the intent of which is to spark additional ideas and new collaborations.  

Mark J.T. Smith, dean of the university’s graduate school and a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team, said there is a pressing national need to increase the participation of underrepresented racial and ethnic minority populations in higher education.

“The nation is dramatically changing demographically and students need to be educated and prepared to excel in a multicultural work environment,” Smith said. “Diversity and inclusiveness better ensures the highest-quality education for all students, providing them exposure to a full spectrum of creative ideas, perspectives, and experiences.”

The DTA program is seeking projects that address recruitment, enrollment, retention, and graduation of underrepresented minority students, as well as their transition into graduate programs. The program’s goals also include increasing the number of underrepresented minority faculty members and improving overall campus climate. Joining Smith and Dutta on the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team are Ximena B. Arriaga, provost fellow and associate professor in social psychology; and Venetria Patton, provost fellow and professor of English and African American studies. The Diversity Transformation Award joins other new initiatives to strengthen Purdue’s commitment to diversity, including the launch of Purdue Polytechnic High School. Opening in 2017, the Indianapolis-based charter school will provide a bridge for students to be admitted directly to Purdue. 

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