Understanding the natural science faculty experience during the transition towards inclusive excellence : a phenomenological case study.
The Natural Science (NS) department at the University of Houston Downtown (UHD), a federally designated Hispanic-Serving (HSI) and Minority Serving Institution (MSI), struggles to retain and graduate students of color (SOC). The predominately White faculty do not represent the Hispanic and Black student population. To support SOC and reduce the disparity in graduation rates, the NS department received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence (IE) grant to train faculty in inclusive practices. The NS faculty could participate in eight professional development (PD) opportunities between Fall 2018 and Spring 2020. Implementing inclusive practices can be compared to adopting technology. Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) theory is a theoretical framework that categorizes faculty into adopter categories based on their participation in the PD opportunities. The research conducted was a phenomenological case study that sought to answer two primary research questions: what is the NS faculty experience with the HHMI IE grant implementation?, and how do the NS faculty perceive the work of inclusion during the HHMI IE grant implementation? A third sub-question, how do early adopters and trailing-edge faculty experiences differ during organizational change, expanded the scope of the research. Two early adopters and two trailing-edge faculty interview responses shared the faculty experience with the grant implementation, a departmental phenomenon. The within-case analysis highlighted the increased use of inclusive practices among the early adopters. The cross-case analysis revealed themes of leadership and transparency when regarding the work of inclusion. Themes of communication, Eurocentricity of science courses, relevancy, and time constraints developed when faculty described their experiences implementing inclusive practices. Difficulties among faculty are barriers to the long-term sustainability of inclusivity. This study may provide mid-size HSIs insight into how a predominately White faculty face challenges to meet the needs of their students of color.