Gannon Dean Named Fellow Of IAspire Leadership Academy

Karinna Vernaza, Ph.D., Gannon University’s dean of the College of Engineering and Business, was named a fellow in the inaugural cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy.

Karinna Vernaza, Ph.D., Gannon University’s dean of the College of Engineering and Business, was named a fellow in the inaugural cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy.

Karinna Vernaza, Ph.D., Gannon University’s dean of the College of Engineering and Business, was named a fellow in the inaugural cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy, a leadership program that helps S.T.E.M. 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, or IChange, addresses the national need to broaden diversity and increase inclusion in S.T.E.M. fields and higher education leadership.

“I have been impressed with Dr. Vernaza’s dedication to Gannon University’s efforts, her perseverance toward her professional goals, and her excellence in leadership, teaching, scholarship, professional development, and service,” said Gannon University Vice President for Academic Affairs Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D. 

“(Dr. Vernaza) has been proactive at developing strong skills that can be adapted to many environments. She seeks to lead and participate in projects, initiatives, and collaborative ventures that provide opportunities for faculty and students that enhance and affect the institution and that create partnerships with benefits to all involved,” Iwanenko said. 

Howard Gobstein, co-director of the Aspire Alliance and executive vice president at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, expressed his sentiments on Vernaza’s inclusion in the academy. 

“As part of the inaugural cohort of IAspire Leadership Academy fellows, Vernaza has distinguished herself as a leader in S.T.E.M., and we’re thrilled to have her as a participant,” Gobstein said. “Diversity starts with faculty and university leadership, and this academy will help cultivate inclusion and diversity in the next-generation of university faculty and leaders.” 

“We’re thrilled to provide leadership training to some of the most promising faculty from across the country,” said Suzanne Barbour, professor of biochemistry and biophysics and dean of the Graduate School at the University of Georgia. “Advancing diversity and inclusion in S.T.E.M. is an urgent national challenge, and we simply can’t address the problem without a strong base of leaders who represent the demographics of the country.”  

The academy is one pillar of diversity and inclusion work underway through Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse S.T.E.M. Faculty. The National Science Foundation-backed alliance is working across post-secondary institutions to develop more inclusive institutional cultures that support the access and success of all undergraduate S.T.E.M. students, especially those from underrepresented groups. APLU and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning 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. 

The academy is targeted at mid-career individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups currently serving in college or university leadership roles in S.T.E.M. fields. Nearly 60 faculty members in S.T.E.M. fields at two- and four-year institutions across the country applied for IAspire Fellowships. The 20 participating faculty and administrators were selected through a competitive, holistic review of their applications. 

The Aspire Alliance has engaged an inaugural cohort of 15 universities and is currently reviewing applications for its second IChange cohort. The IChange Network provides participating institutions with comprehensive support and resources for institutional change that includes access to national partners who can offer concierge-style technical assistance. Working with participating institutions as a community of transformation, the IChange Network also provides access to an institutional self-assessment for inclusive faculty hiring that APLU developed, a robust action-planning process, a leadership institute to assist with professional development for existing faculty from underrepresented groups (the IAspire Leadership Academy), and a competitive funding program to foster new campus-based initiatives to diversify S.T.E.M. faculty. 

In addition to its institutional change efforts, the Aspire Alliance will also be launching a regional change component that will build collaboratives of two-year colleges, four-year regional universities, local research universities, and the private sector. The group will also seek national change through partnerships with an array of disciplinary societies, groups that focused on underrepresented students and faculty, and professional development organizations to align faculty disciplinary experiences. 

Learn more about the IAspire Leadership Academy on the IAspire Leadership Academy site
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