North Texas Daily

Reaffirmed as tier one research institution, university strives to promote diversity in STEM

Reaffirmed as tier one research institution, university strives to promote diversity in STEM

Reaffirmed as tier one research institution, university strives to promote diversity in STEM
February 26
12:30 2022

The University of North Texas’ standing as a tier one research university was reaffirmed when the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education released its 2021 report in January, as efforts are being made to develop faculty recruitment, hiring and retention practices for minority students in STEM.

In 2020, the university was designated a Hispanic-Serving and Minority-Serving Institution and was one of only one of 18 tier-one research universities given the designation. Mark McLellan, vice president for Research and Innovation, said research is better when there is a diverse population of students involved. 

“It’s so important because the idea of having new discoveries really comes from very different kinds of thinking, so what you want to do if you’re in the business of trying to create new discoveries is to have as diverse of thinking as possible,” McLellan said. “Diversity in research brings creative thought, ability to leapfrog current thinking and get you to a new place.”

McLellan will retire in June and Pamela Padilla, the current dean of the College of Science, will take over his position on June 5. Padilla previously told the North Texas Daily that she plans to “address what the division can do to help garner opportunities as a Hispanic-Serving Institute.”

We are so fortunate to have [Padilla] coming in to take the role of leadership in research,” McLellan said. 

Only 141 universities nationwide were classified by Carnegie as “Doctoral Universities: Very High Research Activity.” Yunfei Du, associate dean of academics for the College of Information, teaches doctoral-level courses, which he said are an important indicator of tier-one status. 

“Minorities in the information science program, I think, make up more than 50 percent, so this is the majority of researchers, potential researchers, rising researchers, and they are fantastic,” Du said. “We really need to do a better job with faculty recruitment in this, starting with doctoral education. We want to recruit and retain the minority students and doctoral students are the pipeline for future faculty.”

UNT lies in the top 10 percent nationwide of racial and ethnic diversity, according to the College Factual’s 2021 diversity report, with Hispanic students making up about 25 percent of the student population in 2020

Alex Vargas, mechanical and energy engineering senior and external affairs vice president for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, said diversity can open up new possibilities and ideas that have not been considered or thought of before. 

“Diversity in research is important because not only does it bring a fresh pair of eyes to look at the problem but also a different mindset,” Vargas said. “There is only so much UNT can do to make minorities feel a part of the community, but UNT has done a good job including minorities by celebrating their holidays and traditions, as well as dedicating a few scholarships to minorities, and supporting student organizations that encourage minorities in their majors.”

McLellan said the university will continue to strive to create a sense of belonging for minority students and create meaningful experiences for them going into the future. 

“As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, we want to expand our registration of students and try to help students get excited about being here and being a part of our community,” McLellan said. “It’s actually easier for us to do that when we’re already an HSI, because we have a built family of Hispanic students, they’re already here, they create a sense of belonging, and I think that’s so important.”

Featured image: A sign outside of Discovery Park advertises the university’s tier-one research status on Feb. 20, 2022. Photo by Sonia Huerta

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Jillian Nachtigal

Jillian Nachtigal

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