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  1. This research paper describes a study designed to help inform STEM faculty hiring practices at institutions of higher education in the U.S., where over the past two decades, diversity statements have become more popular components of application packages for faculty jobs. The purpose is to explore the ways and extent to which diversity statements are utilized in evaluating faculty applicants. The research questions are: (1) To what extent do universities equip search committees to evaluate applicants’ diversity statements? (2) What are STEM faculty’s perspectives of diversity statements in job applications? This paper is derived from a larger two-phase sequential mixed methods study examining the factors current faculty members and administrators consider important when hiring new STEM faculty. During the first phase, we deployed a nationwide survey to STEM faculty members and administrators who have been involved in faculty searches, with 151 of 216 respondents answering questions specific to diversity statements. About 29% of survey respondents indicated their departments required diversity statements; 59% indicated their institutions did not provide guidance for evaluating them. The second phase was a phenomenological study involving interviews of 25 survey respondents. Preliminary analyses of interview data indicated that a little more than half (52%) of participants’ departments required a diversity statement. Of the departments that required diversity statements, a little more than half used a rubric for evaluation, whether as part of a larger holistic rubric, or as a standalone rubric. For some departments that did not require diversity statements, applicants were required to discuss diversity within their other application materials. Regarding faculty members’ perceptions of diversity statements, some felt that diversity statements were necessary to assess candidates’ beliefs and experiences. Some noted that when diversity is discussed as part of another document and is not required as a stand-alone statement, it feels like the candidate “slaps on a paragraph” about diversity. Others viewed diversity statements as a “bump” that gives candidates “bonus points.” A few faculty felt that diversity statements were “redundant,” and if applicants were passionate about diversity, they would organically discuss it in the other required documents. Many shared frustrations regarding the requirement and evaluation practices. Most participants indicated their postings provided applicants with little to no guidance on what search committees were looking for in submitted diversity statements; they felt it would be beneficial for both the search committee and the applicants to have this guidance. Shared through a traditional lecture, results from this study may be used to help inform strategies for recruiting faculty who are committed to diversity - and ideally, equity and inclusion - and for addressing equity in faculty hiring. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  2. Rice University received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to host workshops designed to help faculty members at predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUIs) develop competitive proposals to the Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program. S-STEM projects provide scholarships and other support to low-income students who demonstrate the academic potential to succeed in STEM disciplines with the aim of increasing their presence in the U.S. STEM workforce and/or graduate programs. Our recruitment efforts focused primarily on PUIs located in Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) jurisdictions. An initial search of NSF’s awards database showed that despite enrolling the majority of students, PUIs – associate’s colleges in particular – received a disproportionately small fraction of S-STEM awards. Additionally, at the time of our search, Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) awards had been made to institutions in only 50% of EPSCoR jurisdictions. By increasing the capacity of faculty members at PUIs in EPSCoR jurisdictions to successfully compete for funding, we can help improve the number and diversity of the institutions students S-STEM supports. Analyses are not yet available on the status of all proposals submitted by workshop participants; however, we are using project summaries as one preliminary, indirect indicator of likely proposal quality. In this paper, we present the rubric and describe the results of the project summary evaluations as preliminary findings to address the question: To what degree and in what ways do participants’ project summaries change from pre- to post-workshop? The results have implications for prospective PIs who are seeking guidance on strengthening areas of S-STEM proposals. 
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