Tickle College of Engineering engage Engineering Fundamentals Director Rachel Ellestad has spent her career at UT by helping educate and train the next generation of engineers.
Now, Ellestad herself is gaining support, as the National Alliance for Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty has selected her as a member of its latest IAspire Leadership Academy (IAspire).
“I am honored to have been chosen to take part in this tremendous learning and development opportunity, and I’m eager to begin,” said Ellestad. “The work that IAspire helps foster is something that I feel is very important, and I look forward to taking part in this process.”
IAspire was started to help faculty in STEM fields who are from historically underrepresented backgrounds take on leadership roles and activities, bolstering their careers and helping make sure that people in those roles more accurately reflected society as a whole.
Through the program, faculty will develop in eight different competencies, such as fostering collaboration, communicating effectively, and advocating for diversity and inclusion; will work to develop their own network of potential collaborators and faculty with differing perspectives; and will develop and undertake their own plan of leadership, with an eye on influencing change at the department, college, and even university level.
The program within the academy is broken into two one-year processes, the first being on personal development, with the second year taking tangible ideas and implementing them in their respective institution.
“The great thing about the IAspire program is that it helps you examine, develop, and improve things about yourself, but then it also works to take what you’ve learned and what ideas you may have and turn those into actionable items,” said Ellestad. “Because of that, both the faculty member and their respective institution benefit from the process. It’s a win-win situation.”
The academy is part of the Aspire Alliance’s Institutional Change Initiative, which the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the University of Georgia lead.
“With many pressing challenges facing universities across the country, we’re grateful to see so many institutions supporting the participation of emerging STEM leaders from underrepresented groups in the fourth cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy,” said Howard Gobstein, director of the National Science Foundation INCLUDES Aspire Alliance and APLU senior vice president. “The IAspire fellows are extraordinarily talented, and we’re excited to see the promise that can be realized by supporting and unleashing their potential.”
IAspire chooses participants from both four-year and two-year institutions. Including Ellestad, there are 18 faculty members from across the US who were selected for participation in 2022.
Previous participants from the college include Southern Company Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor Jamie Coble from nuclear engineering, Chancellor’s Professor and Department of Materials Science and Engineering Head Veerle Keppens, and then-Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs Ozlem Kilic.