Fayetteville State’s White Named to AASCU’s 2023 Emerging Leaders Program

She will lead a campus initiative to bolster participation and success among Black male students in STEM
Date: July 10, 2023

Dr Erin White

Fayetteville, N.C. (July 10, 2023) — Fayetteville State University’s (FSU) Erin White, Ph.D., associate dean in the Lloyd College of Health, Science and Technology (LCHST), is among 35 higher education professionals from across the nation selected to the 2023 Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).

Created in 2015, ELP helps provide aspiring mid-career higher education professionals with the tools, resources, and support they need to advance their careers to the next level.

ELP provides a robust curriculum that delivers a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to succeed in the academy. During this six-month program, participants gain insight into critical higher education topics, including academic affairs, alumni relations, change leadership, project management, and national trends impacting colleges and universities.

With a curriculum designed to develop the skills and competencies necessary for the next generation of higher education leaders, the 2023 ELP cohort will demonstrate their leadership skills to their campus community by leading an on-campus project or initiative with the support of their president/chancellor or a cabinet-level administrator.

Program participants are selected via a competitive application process, which includes an endorsement from their university, a summary of personal and professional development goals, a campus project description and how it meets those goals, and a commitment to 100% participation. Over the course of the program, participants receive up to 12 interactive, 60- to 120-minute virtual sessions and an intensive in-person program at AASCU’s Washington, D.C., office. Preference is given to applicants from AASCU member institutions; FSU is one of 11 member schools in North Carolina.

White joined FSU in 2005 and has held numerous leadership and academic appointments, including associate professor in the Department of Biological and Forensic Sciences and director of the Honors Program. She earned a B.S. in molecular biology from Winston-Salem State University and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Meharry Medical College.

During her tenure at FSU, White has collaborated to co-author and co-administer several funded programs designed to promote the recruitment and retention of historically and racially marginalized students and women in STEM disciplines, provide academic support for STEM undergraduates, prepare K-12 STEM educators and conduct professional development workshops for K-12 STEM educators. She has received numerous accolades and awards for excellence in teaching and advising, including multiple Teacher of the Year (Department of Biological and Forensic Sciences) and Advisor of the Year recognitions at FSU. She was also selected as an inaugural leadership fellow by the Center for the Advancement of STEM Leadership and has published her work on promoting student interest in STEM and the impact of social communication on student collaboration.

Currently, she is exploring new research at the intersection of STEM and social sciences. White aims to identify social determinants that may impact historically and racially marginalized students' science identity and desire to pursue STEM to help eliminate existing disparities and increase their participation in STEM education and careers.

“I am a passionate STEM educator and advocate, and I believe that a solid foundation and science identity are necessary for students to be competitive in a 21st-century global society,” White said. “Partnerships are critical in helping broaden participation in STEM through increased funding, training, access, opportunity and diversity in STEM leadership, entrepreneurship and careers. I appreciate this opportunity to hone my leadership skills, further the university's mission and demonstrate my passion for student success.”

White’s campus project — Expose ME to STEME: Strengthening Male Students to Excel in STEM Matriculation — is an empowerment program intended to nurture self-efficacy in STEM, entrepreneurship, and leadership among Black male STEM or STEM-interested students. White and the LCHST are partnering with Roderick T. Heath Ed.D., assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, and the Division of Student Affairs/Bronco Matriculation Institute to address the underrepresentation of Black male student enrollment and persistence in STEM.

The LCHST comprises three departments and one school: Biological and Forensic Sciences (DBFS); Chemistry, Physics and Materials Science (DCPMS); and Mathematics and Computer Science (DMCS); and the School of Nursing. This initiative focuses on the STEM departments where 58% of students enrolled identify as Black.

Since 2018 (and prior) and compared to its respective base year, there is an average 60% decrease in Black male STEM enrollment. White’s project noted that the underrepresentation of Black students earning degrees in STEM disciplines continues, even though Black students are not underrepresented in college enrollment overall. Most recently, the number of prospective Black scientists, engineers and mathematicians is decreasing even as demand increases. The reasons Black undergraduate STEM students' persistence and graduation rates are not comparable to their White and Asian counterparts are complex. Factors such as a strong relationship with an academic advisor or mentor, support from peers and coworkers, and a sense of belonging or community have been cited as key variables that can affect student experiences and progression. Discrimination and bias in STEM also discourage Black students from science. Studies suggest that Black students are less likely to leave other competitive majors, such as business, at the same high rates. Definitive measures are essential to improving representation of Black students in STEM careers.

“It is extremely gratifying to see our esteemed faculty recognized and rewarded for their passion and commitment to our students’ success, especially in STEM,” said Afua Arhin, Ph.D., LCHST dean. “Dr. White is an exceptional scholar and educator whose vision and leadership will help reduce disparities, remove obstacles and foster stronger representation in STEM among marginalized and underrepresented communities, especially young Black men. Her selection to the ELP comes at a crucial time and has tremendous impact potential.”

“The Emerging Leaders Program plays a critical role in supporting a diverse group of campus leaders, preparing each to lead from where they are and prepare for future roles in higher education administration,” Charles L. Welch, Arkansas State University System president and ELP executive sponsor, said in a press release. “ELP is supported by an amazing faculty of AASCU leaders including nine current or former presidents deeply committed to uplifting the next generation of higher education leaders. I am excited to work with the incoming cohort and support their journeys.”

About the AASCU

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of 350 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development. These are institutions Delivering America’s Promise. For more information visit www.aascu.org.

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