President Mark B. Rosenberg and Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton recently committed eight more faculty positions to the Diversity Mentor Professor Program.
Offered by the Office to Advance Women, Equity & Diversity (AWED), the Diversity Mentor Professor Program is a special initiative to recruit excellent faculty to FIU who have a history of and commitment to the mentorship of women and underrepresented minority students.
These positions are a key aspect of Destination FIU, a comprehensive plan to develop FIU as a destination for Black faculty and students from the undergraduate to senior faculty and administrative level. Destination FIU was proposed by AWED and the College of Arts, Sciences & Education as part of FIU’s Equity Action Initiative.
The faculty members chosen must have an outstanding record of scholarly publications, research support and teaching—and they must also have a history of mentoring minorities, particularly Hispanic-American and African-American students.
Diversity Mentor professors will participate in FIU’s National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Institutional Transformation Project, FIU ADVANCE, which focuses on increasing faculty diversity and inclusion, mentoring, advocacy and leadership activities. They also will contribute to FIU’s research goals through their federally funded research programs.
A diverse and inclusive faculty is critical, and not just for excellence in teaching and research. Having professors and mentors with whom students can identify can help them imagine a similar career trajectory for themselves. Additionally, senior hires are an important tool in bringing about change within departments that have few women or minorities.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion are essential components of FIU providing exceptional student-centered learning. Increased faculty diversity provides for more perspectives and has a positive impact on student success, particularly for our diverse student body,” Furton says.
The program is based on the Mentor Professor Initiative, a successful program created by Victoria Sork, dean of Life Sciences Division in the University of California, Los Angeles College of Letters and Science. The program was effective at doubling the number of Black and Hispanic faculty and increasing the number of women within the College of Life Sciences over an eight-year period. AWED Associate Provost Suzanna Rose pitched the idea at FIU and Furton agreed to fund four positions to increase diversity in the STEM fields.
Two Diversity Mentor Professors began at FIU in Fall 2018, Daniela Radu, associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering, and Svetlana Roudenko, professor of mathematics.
Roudenko serves as the graduate program director of the new Ph.D. program in applied math. In only its second year, the program has 15 Ph.D. students, about 70 percent are racial/ethnic minorities. She co-organized an international conference at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in November 2018. Three-fourths of the speakers were female mathematicians, which is almost unheard of in mathematical research. The conference was jointly supported by the National Science Foundation and the Swedish Research Council.
Radu won a $3 million grant from NASA to create and lead the Center for Research and Education in 2D Optoelectronics (CRE2DO). The award was granted through the NASA Program for Minority University Research and Education Project – Institutional Research Opportunity, which focuses on engaging women and minorities in NASA research.
Both faculty members have been instrumental in mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, and jointly have brought in $5 million in grant funding to FIU.