Sparks for Change

Triad Leadership GraphicSparks for Change is an effort to increase the diversity of the geosciences by improving departmental culture and support of underrepresented minority (URM) faculty, using small groups as change agents.
The diversity of faculty in the geosciences remains far below the population as a whole, and this has an effect on attracting and retaining a diverse student body. The Sparks for Change Institute focuses on improving the retention of underrepresented faculty by using small groups comprised of junior URM faculty interested in broadening participation (BP) efforts (‘sparks’), more senior partners in the same departments (‘partners’) and experienced broadening participation experts (‘sponsors’) to drive change. We acknowledge that an underlying reason for a lack of focus on broadening participation efforts might be the institutional environment, where there is little departmental motivation to recognize or reward BP efforts in tenure and promotion, leading to a culture that does not view BP efforts as important, and an environment where URM faculty do not feel supported. An effective way to tackle this problem is with small groups with appropriate leadership training who are empowered and supported in developing departmental plans for changing the culture of their own department; and application of grounded theory to gather data that supports ongoing change.

Program Goals:

  1. Support the career progression and retention of early career minority faculty
  2. Develop leadership at individual, faculty and departmental levels to overcome institutional inertia towards broadening participation
  3. Empower cultural change towards inclusivity in participating departments
  4. Create a mechanism for the transfer of information between different institutions on successful approaches for increasing minority participation
  5. Build a community of “champions for diversity” committed to retaining diverse students and faculty and broadening participation in the geosciences

We particularly want to engage geoscience departments who have hired early career minority faculty and want to support and retain them; broadening participation experts who want to contribute to overcoming institutional inertia toward broadening participation efforts and both early and late career scientists who want inclusive departments where everyone is empowered to fully contribute to science.

Principal Investigator Team

Robert KirschRobert Kirsch

Assistant Professor of Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies, Arizona State University.



Sennai HabtesSennai Habtes

Assistant Research Professor of Biological Oceanography, Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, University of the Virgin Islands.


John CrockettJohn Crockett

San Diego State University Research Foundation, San Diego State University.



Brenee KingBrenee King

Program Coordinator, Kansas Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, Kansas State University.



Rebecca BatchelorRebecca Batchelor

SOARS Program, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.




Allison TeeterAllison Teeter

External Evaluator,   Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation, Kansas State University.