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crumb trail: Home >> Whistle Online >> Archives >> August 24, 2009

Vice provost for Academic Diversity begins academic year with symposium

Robert Nesmith
Communications & Marketing

Charged with creating an inclusive academic environment for underrepresented groups in faculty and student populations, the vice provost for Academic Diversity (VPAD) will facilitate the Institute’s inaugural Diversity Symposium on Sept. 14.

Diversity SymposiumNamed as the Institute’s first VPAD a year ago, Biomedical Engineering Professor Gilda Barabino is charged with assessing, defining and directing Tech’s expanding diversity efforts, as well as increasing the recruitment and retention efforts of underrepresented populations, both in the student body and the faculty.

The symposium, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., was conceived as a first effort in the new academic year for the office to engage the Tech community in a dialogue regarding the Institute’s vision and strategy for academic diversity within Tech faculty and leadership. Experts from other post-secondary institutions as well as campus leadership will speak and lead discussions on their experiences with expanding diversity in various academic settings.

“My approach to academic diversity is the same as that to my academic field,” said Barabino, who also is the associate chair for Graduate Studies in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “It’s a research-driven, literature-based scholarly approach.”

Barabino said she wants the symposium to focus on university administration and faculty and what efforts they can undertake to assist with institutional change. “There have been several links shown between faculty diversity and increased student diversity and achievement,” she said. She also references University of Michigan Professor Scott E. Page’s research, published in “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies,” on evidence that diverse groups deliver better results in solving complex problems than a comparable homogeneous group.

“When addressing disparities in post-secondary education—in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] fields in particular—there’s a tendency to focus on ‘priming the pipeline’ and not give sufficient attention to the leaks that occur at the transition points,” Barabino said, referring to pulling underrepresented students into an institution, but not strategically providing for their success throughout the academic and professional career path. She says her office seeks to provide faculty and those in leadership positions with resources and assistance to enhance faculty and student diversity and ensure equity and inclusion in all research and educational pursuits.

  Georgia Tech Vice Provost for Academic Diversity Gilda Barabino
  Vice Provost for Academic Diversity and BME Professor Gilda Barabino talks with an attendee at the Women’s Resource Center’s 10th anniversary celebration.

“We need to have more collective responsibility within the Institute to lead by example in creating a culture and environment that allows all members of our community to excel and realize their full potential,” she said. “In this regard, collective and personal responsibility is the same. Everyone has the ability to be a leader within their own sphere of influence.”

President Bud Peterson will provide opening remarks for the Diversity Symposium, followed by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Gary B. Schuster. After brief introductions and talks, guest speakers will participate in a panel discussion, designed to jump-start campus dialogue. These experts have demonstrated leadership in their respective institutions, showcasing the link between faculty and student diversity, Barabino said.

Gertrude Fraser is vice provost for Faculty Advancement at the University of Virginia. She reports to and assists the provost on promotion and tenure, recruitment and retention, faculty policy and procedures and search committee training. Prior to her appointment, she was a program officer in higher education at the Ford Foundation, where she spearheaded initiatives on diversity in higher education and interdisciplinary programming in women’s and African-American studies. According to Barabino, she brings a unique perspective to the gathering, as her office is on the institutional level.

Richard Tapia is a computational and applied mathematics professor and the director of the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education at Rice University. He is nationally recognized for his education and outreach programs. Rice’s Computational and Applied Mathematics Department is a national leader in producing women and underrepresented minority mathematical science doctoral recipients. “I’ve followed him for years,” Barabino said. “He’s an internationally renowned mathematician, who is also has devoted his career to boosting STEM populations and developing programs for minority populations.”

Cathy Trower is director of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. The collaborative was conceived to create a constructive competition among U.S. universities to create “a great place to work.” Trower has pioneered a significant amount of research, such as women in science, faculty recruitment and retention strategies, issues facing faculty of color, and tenure policy and practice.

Her perspective is unique, Barabino says, because not only has Trower written about diversity among student and faculty populations, but also has conducted research.
After the panel discussion, attendees will break for lunch, where questions at each table will encourage discussion within the smaller groups. “You’ll never succeed if you can’t have open dialogue in an academic setting,” she said.

Throughout the academic year, she says the VPAD office will hold follow-up activities.
“The ability of institutions to achieve success and greatness is severely hampered if we ignore untapped talent and fail to provide educational and research opportunities to all sectors of our population,” Barabino said.

Register online by Sept. 1 for either the panel or both the panel and luncheon.



Approved by the Office of External Affairs on 09/24/97
Last Modified: August 24, 2009