New Recipients Announced for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Project Grants

Forty campus proposals have been selected to receive the Actions that promote Community Transformation (ACT) grants. Initiated in fall of 2020, ACT recipients are awarded seed grants — ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 — to support and enable diversity, equity and inclusion projects within their local communities at UT Austin.

“We have an enormous campus that has many different micro environments. This program was created around the idea that change requires creative thinking and that campus members understand the unique needs of their local campus environments more than anyone,” said managing director of diversity, Lydia Contreras. “We received a wide range of inspiring proposals and are excited to see these projects come to life with this new round of ACT grant recipients. It gives me a lot of energy to see the large number of staff, faculty and students who are interested in working together to continue to strengthen our campus community.”

Areas of interest for the projects include:

  • Graduate education
  • Undergraduate education
  • Departmental climate
  • Faculty hiring practices
  • Staff and faculty promotion and retention practices
  • Faculty development
  • Mentoring practices
  • Student recruitment practices

The 2021 grants represent more than $180,000 to fund projects supported by units across campus, including: the Graduate School, College of Natural Sciences, Cockrell School of Engineering, College of Fine Arts, Dell Medical School, Division for Diversity and Community Engagement, College of Education, IC2 Institute, Moody College of Communication, School of Architecture, School of Law, School of Nursing, School of Undergraduate Studies, Steve Hicks School of Social Work, University of Texas Libraries, and Vice President for Student Affairs. ACT work is supported widely across campus, with funding contributed by many of the deans from the colleges and schools in which project applicants are housed as well as by the Provost’s Office.

This group of awardees will hold joint meetings to mutually support the development of these projects throughout the year and is already working together to exchange ideas to maximize their impact. Representatives from both cohorts of ACT projects will also participate in the upcoming DEI Community Fair, scheduled from 3:30 – 5 pm on Tuesday, November 16, 2021, in the Calhoun and Parlin outdoor courtyards. In celebration of DEI work across campus, the fair will be an opportunity to continue to strengthen our connection as a larger university community and posters showcasing ACT projects will be on display. (RSVP here)

Biomedical Engineering
Proposal to Improve Student Mentoring and Climate in Biomedical Engineering
Our overall goal is to increase student diversity, particularly in regards to racial and ethnic diversity, by coupling our recruitment efforts with improved student support and mentoring. The requested funds will be used to identify critical needs of BME students through townhalls and improve mentoring of students through faculty training in active listening and undergraduate student graduate school preparation sessions.
Team members: Elizabeth Cosgriff-Hernandez, Lacy White

Engaging International Graduate Students in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Conversations in the Cockrell School of Engineering

International students often report that they lack knowledge about racial identity in the US and that they feel left out of diversity conversations in higher education. We will organize a one-day workshop for a small group of engineering international graduate students through which they will discuss their experiences related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives in engineering and prepare a white paper at the conclusion of the workshop.

Team members: Mia K. Markey, Lacy White

Equal Opportunity in Engineering
Equal Opportunity in Engineering (EOE) Living Learning Community (LLC) Retention for Underrepresented Males in Engineering (EOE LLC Retention for Underrepresented Males in Engineering)
The main goal of our project is to increase retention amongst underrepresented males of color in the Cockrell School of Engineering. We will accomplish this by creating community, enhancing engineering identity, and by promoting self-efficacy. In addition, we will provide professional and leadership opportunities while fostering academic success
Team members: Enrique Dominguez, Shawntal Brown, Shelby Todd, Johnny Hill, Dan Huynh, LLC Tutor(s)

Equal Opportunity in Engineering FIG House Cup Competition
The EOE FIG House Cup Competition is a friendly competition between our 5 FIGs to help support underrepresented engineering first-year students in their transition to college by incentivizing activities such as attending the FIG seminar, utilizing their FIG tutor, going to their professor’s office hours, and getting involved in student organizations. Students who collect the most points at the end of the semester will be eligible to receive a scholarship for their participation.

Team members: Shelby Todd, Shawntal Brown, Johnny Hill, and Enrique Dominguez along with our FIG mentors and tutors

McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering
Conversations with First-Generation CHE students: Dream, Plan, Do, Celebrate
Initiative designed to learn about dreams and goals, listen to challenges encountered, develop strategies for success and celebrate the wins of first-generation CHE students. The initiative will be conducted virtually in the Fall 2021 semester. During the Spring 2022 semester, lunch meetings will feature CHE alumni from diverse backgrounds who will share their paths through chemical engineering. These meetings will help students envision their career paths and reduce the stress associated with an uncharted future.
Team members: Michael Baldea, Nathaniel Lynd, Kelly McQueary

Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering
Team members: Masa Prodanovic

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Promoting Inclusive Public Engagement and Outreach at the Cockrell School of Engineering

While many STEM research and outreach efforts plan to reach underserved/ underrepresented communities, the means to reach and engage such audiences are not always effective. In this initiative, we aim to recruit a cohort of 25 early-career faculty, staff, and graduate students from the Cockrell School of Engineering for an inclusive STEM communication and public engagement training series in Fall 2021.

Team members: Niveen AbiGhannam, Audrey Boklage, Maura Borrego, Anthony Dudo


ECE Partner Mentoring Program

The ECE Partner Program is a mentoring program that is designed to support first-year graduate students transitioning into a UT-Austin Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate program. The goal of the program is to cultivate an inclusive environment for all new ECE graduate students that will foster students growth, commitment, and connection to the ECE department and success in their academic career.

Team members: Brian Evans, Veronica Vera Vasquez


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Assessment of Technical Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Educational Modules

The overarching goal of this ACTS grant is to develop assessment tools that will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of Technical Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Educational (TDEIE) modules. Unlike typical modules used in engineering, the TDEIEs were developed with the specific intent to provide faculty with technically relevant diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) course content that they can easily incorporate.

Team members: Maura Borrego, Enrique Dominguez, Keffrelyn Brown

Educational Psychology

First-Generation CORE Project: Cultivating Opportunities, Resources & Equity

The First-Generation CORE project has three main objectives: to further understand and gain insight into the lived experiences of first-generation college students, to expand and implement an existing mindset intervention related to positive psychological outcomes such as resilience, and to establish a research team of first-gen undergraduates interested in promoting equity and success through future projects.

Team members: Stephanie Cawthon, Ana Vielma

Art and Art History
Creatively Connecting Communities through EDI Art Curriculum, Conversation, and Change

Project goals include: 1. Working with UT undergraduate and graduate students (via coursework) to develop additional EDI resources for K-12 teachers, 2. Developing a minimum of 5 EDI artist videos (to support UT recruiting and K-12 art teachers’ EDI needs), 3. Offering EDI Professional Development Workshops for K-12 art teachers.

Team members: Christina Bain, Donalyn Heise, Dawn Stienecker


Paths to a More Inclusive Classics Ph.D. 

Our main goal is to create a practical template for diversifying the field of classics, through attention to all the stages of the academic cycle: undergraduate study, graduate program, culture and climate, beyond the degree and public awareness. This term we are focusing on developing a peer-mentorship program for undergraduate students of color, as well as a public exhibition celebrating Black classics in the Austin area.

Team members: Ayelet Haimson Lushkov, Pramit Chaudhuri


Asian Studies

‘Juneteenths’ Across the Globe: Raising awareness of oppression by discussing celebrations of freedom from oppression in language classrooms

The goal of this project is to raise consciousness about issues revolving around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) amongst faculty teaching less commonly taught languages (LCTLs), and in our LCTL classrooms, by building a few language class modules around experiences of oppression, and related movements and ‘celebrations of freedom’, similar to Juneteenth. Recognizing that language acquisition is greatly facilitated by emotional involvement when it happens in what is perceived as a relevant context, by having class materials interwoven with current discourse around race relations in the US and actual student experiences and concern, we hope that such engagement with ‘Juneteenths’ across the globewill strengthen learning outcomes, and also in a very natural way foster a sense of “belonging”.

Team members: Gautami Shah


Mexican American and Latina/o Studies

Tejana Historias: Indigenous Indentations and Transfrontera Transformations 

“Tejana Historias: Indigenous Indentations and Transfrontera Transformations,” documents the histories, narratives, and stories through a digital timeline of Tejanas from the Paleoindian Period to the present, which will be readily available for classroom use for grade levels high school and above.

Team members: Lilia Raquel Rosas



Diversity and Inclusion in Government Graduate Studies (DIGGS)

This program is designed to introduce students from under-represented groups to graduate level studies in political science or government. We aim to increase diversity in the discipline and among our graduate student body.

Team members: Terry. Chapman, Zeynep Somer-Topcu


Latino Research Institute

Latino Scholars Bridging the Gap

The purpose of this project is to learn about the perceived needs of Latinx Tenure-track and Non-Tenure Track Assistant Professors to develop as independent scholars and achieve promotion at the six UT-System Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI). The results will guide the UT Latino Research Institute to design a structured career pathways program that provides a clear road map supporting academic capacity building and strengthening scientific investigation skills to attain tenure and promotion.

Team members: V. Nelly Salgado de Snyder, Deborah Parra Medina, Ruben Parra-Cardona, Daisy Morales-Campos, Elsi Hernandez


Undergraduate Education

DEI: Building Great Teams

Continuation of an ongoing effort to create a diverse and inclusive environment, continuing a review of inclusive hiring practices within the unit. We have established ways to set up the recruitment and hiring process for success through a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) lens as well as a made changes to the entire job life cycle.  Future goals include continuing current work as well as developing assessment tools to measure for effectiveness on DEI efforts in hiring.

Team members: Alyssa Ray, Kris Powledge Gaddy, Paulina Reyes, Sherri Castillo


Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science (TIDES)

Developing a Critical Consciousness in STEM

We would like to accomplish two aims with this grant: (1) Extend the workshop series we developed on developing a Critical Consciousness in STEM to offer it to a larger community of CNS faculty. (2) Adapt this workshop series and offer it to a students audience.

Team members: Brandon Campitelli, Mays Imad


Department of Integrative Biology

Empowering Women in STEM to Become Community Leaders Through Mentorship

The main goal of this project is to enhance a student-led mentorship program for women in STEM through three main initiatives: transforming our one-on-one mentorship model to a community mentorship model, scaling up our participant list intentionally by recruiting participants from diverse backgrounds, and assessing new metrics to evaluate the impact of our efforts in DEI to the quality of our mentorship program.

Team members: Amelia Wolf, Damla Cinoglu



CNS Center for Social Change Workshop

The CNS Center for Social Change aims to be a hub where members of the CNS community can discuss and address issues at the interface of science, ethics, education, and social justice. In this two-day workshop, participants will present and discuss initiatives and find opportunities to work together.

Team members: Jose Alvarado, Elena Caceres, Mary K. Conovan, Christopher K. Costello, Michael Marder


Natural Sciences Courses/Undergraduate Education

Collective and community knowledge: A 3-prong approach to enhancing the College of Natural Sciences DEI Concentration

This project is a 3-prong approach to bring collective forms of knowledge to the topic of STEM equity in higher ed for the CNS community. This will include 1) developing a library of talks from marginalized voices and researchers who study STEM equity in higher education, 2) providing resources for DEI Concentration students to develop their own STEM equity-focused projects, and 3) gaining DEI professional development from outside the UT community.

Team members: Tonia Guida

Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Building a more diverse and inclusive field of psychology

Our goal is to actively and intentionally build an inclusive field of psychology by helping historically minoritized individuals pursue graduate training in psychology through a workshop and mentorship program.

Team members: David Heckler, Lynn Monnat


Team members: Matt Kammer-Kerwick

First Year Graduate Student Summer Institute

Conducting research and focus groups to inform the development of The First Year Graduate Summer Institute.

Team members: Danielle Geraci Thoma


OUTsider at UT: A Collaborative Queer Arts Programming Presentation 

This collaborative arts programming presentation will bring OUTsider 2022 artists to UT in direct collaboration with the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and the UT PhD Pathways Program. An extension of my scholarship on grassroots LGBTQ+ art and activism, OUTsider is a dynamic transmedia arts organization and festival that fosters intersectional queer cultural preservation, knowledge production and creative collaboration. Amplifying these aims, this project will allow for greater participation and enhanced engagement from the students and faculty at UT.

Team members: Curran Nault, Laura Gutiérrez, PJ Raval, Anahí Ponce, Sarah Nicholus, Christen Smith, Lisa Moore, Grayson Hunt


Communication Studies/Dean’s Office

Engaging IDEA(s) in The Classroom: Training for Doctoral Instructors

Interested doctoral AIs and TAs from any unit on campus are invited to participate in this optional seminar devoted to learning more about how issues related to social identity may play out in the classroom, and how to engage with and respond to those issues when they do emerge. The goal of this program is to help our doctoral teachers learn more about teaching practices that respect, welcome, affirm, and support our undergraduate community as it continues to evolve in the direction of an increasingly diverse student body.

Team members: Madeleine Redlick


 “We Need to Talk About Homelessness.”

Our event will bring together students at the School of Architecture and experts on homelessness—who represent policy, academia, on-the-ground organizations and activism, and the bridges between them—to have a conversation about where we are now in the design fields, where we need to be, and how to work towards housing our whole communities. It will provide practical tools that we can use now, in our current academic culture and practices, to begin to shift our building climate for the better of our people.

Team members: Leora Visotzky, Awais Azhar, Allan W. Shearer


CODE Committee

Bringing Design Futures’ impact to the UT School of Architecture

This partnership with Design Futures will allow an opportunity to explore strategies and resources to enhance existing efforts to create more equitable design institutions and design practice by reimagining studio projects, curriculum, and student and faculty resources. We will identify and long-term strategies to better embed anti-racist work into our institution and engaged in difficult, facilitated conversations as a community.

Team members: Sarah Wu, Charlton Lewis


Looking Back to Move Forward: Black Student Recruitment that Inspires

Through an outreach model that promotes connection and inspiration, our goal is to increase the percentage of Black applicants and matriculants to U.S. law schools, including Texas Law. We will highlight the contributions to the profession and society made by Texas Law’s Black students and alumni, including Heman Sweatt, Virgil Lott (’53), and Gloria Bradford (’54), and create community and connectedness amongst Texas Law’s Black alumni, students, faculty, and prospective students.

Team members: Nicole Simmons, Sam Riley

Simulation & Skills Center

Using Simulation to Educate Healthcare Students on Racial Health Disparities

The goal of this project is to pilot a simulation designed to educate healthcare students on the impact health disparities have on racial minority populations. This IRB approved project is a simulation activity focusing on health disparities and subsequent poor health outcomes faced by Black pregnant women and their infants.

Team members: Nicole Manley, Saeedah Qadeer, Leigh Goldstein, Chris Abbyad, Scott Hudson

Sanger Learning Center

BIPOC Students’ Perspectives on Campus Learning Assistance Services

The Sanger Learning Center will conduct voluntary, paid focus groups for BIPOC students to share their experiences of using academic support (within SLC and in other units), provide feedback on current services, and share ideas for creating programs and practices that empower historically underserved students. Our ultimate goal is to eliminate opportunity gaps and support more equitable outcomes for UT Austin students.

Team members: Paige Schilt, Nisha Abraham, Kate Molina-Gallo, Dekia Greene


First-Year Experience

Cultivating Empathic Responses in First-Year Experience Peer Mentoring Programs

This training will provide peer mentor groups with knowledge and skills through facilitating discussion and implementing empathy-based responses.  Mentors will be enabled to provide empathic responses in a variety of situations with diverse populations.

Team members: Jeff Mayo, Patty Moran Micks, Cristabella Trimble-Quiz, Lisa Valdez, Laura Yates



Integration of Diversity and Inclusion with Resilience Building Mental Health Protective Factors

The Search Institute’s “40 Assets” model has been adapted for the university as “40 Assets for 40 Acres.” Mentors will assist the SHIFT team in efforts to make the 40 Assets address the experiences, needs, and health disparities of minoritized students on campus.

Team members: Phaedra White Abbott, Lori Holleran Steiker, Kate Lower, Patricia Moran Micks


Center for the Skills & Experience Flags

Center for the Skills and Experience Flags anti-racist WAC (Writing Across the Curriculum) faculty workshops

CSEF anti-racism workshops will show faculty how they can address racism in writing-intensive classes, as they become more aware of inherent bias in our approaches to language acquisition that perpetuate systemic inequities in academia and in the workforce. Workshop attendees will engage in critical reflection on cultural experiences and worldviews, and consider the interaction of privilege and power in the context of writers and audiences.

Team members: Brooke Rich, Susan “George” Schorn, Cossy Hough

Rooted Collective Initiative: UT Austin Undocumented Student Support Center

Seed funding from the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity will support Phase Two of the efforts we have begun to promote equity at UT Austin by providing us funds to conduct data collection and analysis to create a proposal for the president of UT Austin advocating for the formation of a center to support students who are undocumented, hold temporary status, or are from mixed-status families. We will survey at least 100 students and alumni and hold focus groups with at least 25 individuals, the results of which we will combine with existing qualitative data to support grant writing and advocacy efforts.

Team members: Ana Hernández, Tiffany Lewis


Un-modeling the Model Minority Stereotype through Photovoice

Drawing on Photovoice methodology, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American (APIDA) students will curate a photo exhibit and invite the UT community to attend a gallery viewing. This project aims to educate the UT community about the perils of the model minority myth and the ways we can support APIDA students in their fight against racism.

Team members: Lalaine Sevillano, Esther Calzada


Critical Race Theory Training in the Central Texas Social Work Community

Each year, more than 350 undergraduate and graduate students complete 480-540 hour academic internships through the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. We will train our community-based field instructors on the tenets of critical race theory with the explicit expectation that they apply this model in their educational supervision thereby increasing social work’s commitment to equity, inclusion, and social justice in central Texas.

Team members: Sarah Sloan, Tanya Voss Mary Beer, Eboni Calbow, René Gaitan, Tammy Linseisen, Starla Simmons, Robin Smith

Office of Student Success

Humanitas: Rejuvenation and Reconnection on the Forty Acres

Humanitas is a collective of Liberal Arts staff members committed to modeling a wellbeing-oriented growth mindset and practicing a mode of advising grounded in teaching and self-advocacy. Our key goal is to inspire mindfulness, empathy, mentorship, and resiliency among Liberal Arts staff, students, and faculty, and we will be establishing a student ambassador program designed to cultivate an inclusive wellness culture within the College.

Team members: Maggie Wilhite, Sarah Mason, Melissa Ossian, Casey Bushman, Julian Falgout, Megan Conner, Marc Pereira

Libraries’ Diversity Action Committee – Facilitation Resources

The goal for the discussion project is to guide conversations that uproot the practices and policies that directly or inadvertently reinforce systemic racism. We would accomplish this by developing collaborative and co-learning safe spaces and providing access to facilitation resources and opportunities.

Team members: Rebecca Liendo, Maria Chiochios, Thao Votang, Mandy Ryan, Gilbert Borrego, Elizabeth Gerberich, Mirko Hanke, Stacy Ogilvie, Katy Parker, Andrés Ramírez, Loretta Wallace, Beth Dodd, Devon Murphy, Liz DeHart

University Updates