Texas Tech University

Sharma appointed to new role as CASNR Faculty Equity Advocate

Norman Martin

July 1, 2021

Jyotsna Sharma, a Professor of Plant Ecology and Conservation in Texas Tech University's Department of Plant & Soil Science, has been selected for a key role that will advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources.

Last year Texas Tech was awarded a National Science Foundation ADVANCE program. The three-year, $976,103 grant is designed to fund initiatives that identify and eliminate barriers preventing the full participation and advancement of diverse STEM faculty in academic institutions.

Jyotsna Sharma, Ph.D.
Jyotsna Sharma, Ph.D.

As part of the program, six colleges on campus were provided the means to appoint one or more faculty members to serve as faculty equity advocates. Under the direction of Interim Dean Cindy Akers, CASNR selected Sharma for this role. 

"For the college, Dr. Sharma plans to bring ideas on actions that will make a difference in the experience of our CASNR community,” Akers said. “We look forward to her efforts in building a more positive climate of equity and inclusion.”

 In this role, Sharma will facilitate the sharing of resources on campus and in the college to put ideas into action for the college. She will be instrumental in developing strategies that actively support an inclusive college climate, and recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, and will serve as a resource for faculty and administration.

“The ADVANCE program is a tangible opportunity to foster a culture of inclusive excellence at TTU and within CASNR, and I am happy to have been asked to lead in this capacity,” Sharma said. “The responsibilities associated with the position align with my experience and informed interest in institutionalizing equity in academic environments.”

“I am keenly looking forward to assisting CASNR develop, implement, and showcase progressive DE&I strategies that cultivate a sense of belonging and value in all its members,” she added.

Sharma has previously served as the founding member and Chair of the TTU Faculty Senate Campus Climate Committee between 2017 and 2018, and is currently serving as its Chair again. She was recently elected the Vice-President of TTU Faculty Senate to serve the 2021-2022 term. Her background and experience as a lead female researcher in a STEM discipline, multiple National Science Foundation implicit bias trainings, and leadership roles in DE&I activities at TTU, nationally, and internationally will inform her role as the CASNR Faculty Equity Advocate. 

“I am keenly looking forward to assisting CASNR develop, implement, and showcase progressive DE&I strategies that cultivate a sense of belonging and value in all its members.”

In addition to her other duties, Sharma has an active, internationally-recognized research program, investigating how biotic and abiotic processes interact over spatial, temporal, and taxonomic scales to explain the dynamics of rare plants. Her team's projects include complementary manipulative and non-manipulative studies in epiphytic and terrestrial plant communities worldwide. 

"Faculty success is the central focus of our ADVANCE grant," added Michael Galyean, Texas Tech's provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. "Faculty success will lead to improved research and scholarship, as well as greater student success through the retention of faculty members who serve as teachers and mentors to women and minority students in STEM departments."

The NSF-ADVANCE program funds initiatives that foster equity by identifying and eliminating organizational barriers that prevent the full participation and advancement of diverse faculty within STEM in academic institutions. The Texas Tech project addresses three challenges: the need for leadership development of department chairs; improving satisfaction with department collegiality in STEM departments; and increasing organizational infrastructure and professional development opportunities to support faculty success.


This story was first published in the CASNR NewsCenter. See the original article here.