7.7 Sustaining a Culture of Inclusion Post-ERC Graduation

Last updated on 2021/08/10 by Court

An ERC is expected to have a 10+ year lifespan, as depicted in Figure 2-2 from the ERC History. It is never too early to start planning sustainability efforts to ensure that gains in DCI made over the course of the ERC live on beyond the end of NSF funding (termed “graduation”). Newer Gen-3 and Gen-4 ERCs should consider sustainability as they prepare materials for their fourth-year renewal review. Conversations about DCI program sustainability should be held at the leadership team level, and indeed at the institutional level, as part of larger-scale conversations about ERC sustainability. Potential avenues for DCI program sustainability are somewhat dependent on the long-term vision for ERC sustainability. If the ERC plans to remain a fully sustained entity post-graduation, the DCI Director can advocate for a continued budget and plan for a continuation of programs similar to those that operated during the ERC’s NSF-funded period. If the ERC plans to transition to a different operating model post-graduation, DCI Program sustainability could be compromised.

It is also useful to understand the ever-changing landscape of DCI both within the ERC and within the contexts of the ERC partner institutions. This allows insights into potential available resources, institutional priorities, and leveraging opportunities. Additionally, communicating the impact of successful ERC DCI programming to ERC partner institution leadership can be important for possible long-term institutionalization of the programs.

Considerations and possible solutions for sustainability of DCI programs post-graduation include:

  • Collaborating with offices and programs of partner institutions that might absorb and continue ERC DCI programming, partner on funding that might lead to inclusion in annual budgets, or support institutionalization of programming

  • Seeking internal or external funding opportunities to continue programming, including exploring a corporate partnership model, looking into Deans’ alumni development priorities, or identifying annual sponsors

  • Utilizing technology solutions such as web-based toolkits and resources, video libraries or playlists, online courses, and other systems for open access to program content.

Sustainability of diversity programs has not been tracked for Gen-1 and Gen-2 ERCs, and only a few of the Gen-3 ERCs have graduated from the program as of the time of writing; thus the sustainability discourse and strategy is somewhat limited in practice. Examples of sustainability practices include the following:

  • ReNUWIt’s student/postdoc DCI committee researched and prepared a report on Evidence-Based Practices for Systematic Holistic Review in Graduate Engineering Admissions. Several of the recommended strategies have been piloted in Civil & Environmental Engineering Departments at the ERC’s partner institutions.

  • CURENT faculty, staff, and students joined a committee at the University of Tennessee to help craft the college’s Diversity Action Plan.

  • NASCENT’s strategy for Bias Busting workshops and DCI-focused icebreakers as part of graduate student onboarding has been adopted by other research groups and programs on The University of Texas at Austin campus.

  • POETS’s Young Scholars program was institutionalized by the University of Illinois College of Engineering, which will allow the program to be fully funded and staffed beyond the ERC. The College uses it as a strategy to recruit undergraduates that contribute to the diversity of its undergraduate population.