In the News

September 24, 2019

Sharnnia Artis Named Fellow of the IAspire Leadership Academy

Sharnnia Artis, assistant dean in the Office of Access and Inclusion (OAI) for the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) and the Samueli School of Engineering, was recently named a fellow in the inaugural cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy. The goal is to help STEM faculty from underrepresented backgrounds ascend to leadership roles at colleges and universities. The program, which is part of the Aspire Alliance’s Institutional Change Initiative (IChange), addresses a national need to broaden diversity and increase inclusion in STEM fields and higher education leadership.

“My story has come full circle,” says Artis, who was introduced to engineering during a high school summer camp for girls interested in math and science. That experience led her to study engineering at Virginia Tech. “There wasn’t that many African-American students there at the time, but I took advantage of a lot of resources,” she says, explaining that campus resources and organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) were just as important as her classes in helping her earn a degree. She went on to become an engineer but never stopped volunteering and mentoring students and eventually returned to academia, earning her Ph.D. and becoming an advocate for STEM students.

“This is always what I was supposed to be doing,” she says, referring to her role in OAI, running a variety of programs to support the recruitment, retention and graduation of students underrepresented in engineering and information and computer sciences. One such program is the ASPIRE [Access Summer Program to Inspire, Recruit and Enrich] two-week residency program for high school juniors and seniors. “I’m now that someone who helped me when I was in high school,” she says. “I hope to be that person changing students’ lives.”

Artis is already changing lives, and this new opportunity through the IAspire Leadership Academy further expands her efforts.

The academy is one pillar of diversity and inclusion work underway through the Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty. The National Science Foundation-backed alliance is working across postsecondary institutions to develop more inclusive institutional cultures supporting the access and success of all undergraduate STEM students, especially those from underrepresented groups. The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are leading the efforts of the Aspire alliance.

The new leadership academy, housed at the University of Georgia, provides professional development for academic leaders from underrepresented groups so they can aspire to and succeed in more senior leadership roles. Fellows will learn effective executive leadership skills for increasingly complex higher education environments as well as how to build confidence to influence institutional transformation in their current and future leadership positions.

As a fellow, Artis is hoping to collaborate with others on ideas for a new campuswide initiative called STEW (Science Technology Education Workgroup). “I want to grow personally and professionally to be a transformational leader for the campus,” she says, “leveraging IAspire to provide insight on how to best to build an effective workgroup to enhance our culture here at UCI.” Her goal is to develop pedagogical approaches for supporting all students, especially underrepresented students in STEM, increasing retention and graduation rates at UCI. “It’s really about understanding students’ current needs, and now I’ll have external support through IAspire.”

Shani Murray

Sharnnia Artis Named Fellow of the IAspire Leadership Academy

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