Geo Opportunities for Leadership in Diversity (GOLD): Sparks for Change

Project: Research project

Project Details


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We have identified a paradox of institutional inertia in the geosciences when it comes to
acting on values of broadening participation (BP). Though a geoscience department may agree
in principle with the goals of BP, the lack of institutional support and recognition in tenure
and promotion pathways for faculty who undertake BP efforts is an obstacle to recruitment
and retention of underrepresented minority (URM) faculty. To overcome this inertia, we propose
an institute focused on providing leadership training to a triad of participants representing
10 different geoscience institutions. These triads will be comprised of an early-career URM
faculty member (the spark), a later-career faculty member within the same geoscience department
(the partner), and a third participant, external to the department, that is a preeminent expert
in BP efforts (the sponsor). The institute will provide participants with the necessary leadership
training specific to each of their professional levels to act as advocates for and leaders
of BP efforts, and support in developing a BP strategy that addresses concerns specific to
their own department.
Intellectual Merit :
The "Sparks for Change" pilot provides a natural laboratory to evaluate the effectiveness
of a targeted small group approach on increasing the diversity of higher ranked faculty within
geosciences departments. We present an effective plan to both implement and evaluate the effectiveness
of this approach through Specific Measurable Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound (SMART)
objectives. In addition, the proposal presents the novel idea that a major barrier to effective
BP strategies at the faculty level in the geosciences is not active strategies blocking advancement,
but rather inaction by faculty and administrators due to the diffuse benefits of the status
quo. The pilot provides a pathway for developing "champions for diversity," through a leadership
approach that fosters both individual leadership and supportive partnerships that reinforce
individual and departmental goals. The program will also provide cross-institutional partnerships
that identify, and over time evaluate, successful BP strategies at different types of institutions.
An online resource center will host all training and evaluation resources developed by the
Sparks for Change program, encouraging inter-institutional transfer of successful strategies
for disrupting institutional inertia.
Broader Impacts :
The "Sparks for Change" Institute focuses on improving departmental culture from within, to
improve retention and increase numbers of high-level URM faculty within geoscience departments.
The program will provide both early-career URM faculty and senior faculty members with leadership
skills and a community of practice to promote BP strategies, as well as support for the URM
faculty to successfully navigate tenure pathways. This will ultimately lead to increased URM
participation, both for faculty at levels beyond assistant professor and for URM students,
since the faculty will be more reflective of student populations and the departmental culture
more welcoming. In addition, the program will cultivate an alliance of "diversity champions",
based on a collective impact framework. This alliance will enhance interconnectedness between
institutions toward broadening participation goals and share best practices and resources
for increasing representation within geoscience departments across the nation.
Effective start/end date10/1/169/30/20


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $397,587.00

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