LAWRENCE — Throughout her career in the University of Kansas Department of Mathematics, Estela Gavosto, associate professor, has taken on a leadership role in preparing students from diverse backgrounds who are underrepresented in the science fields with the goal of enhancing the diversity of the research workforce. Now, she will direct her energy and passion to the entire KU community as the new executive director of the Multicultural Scholars Program.
Since 2009, Gavosto has served as director of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Multicultural Scholars Program and associate director of the Office for Diversity in Science Training. She is also a principal investigator of the Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) and the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development Program (IMSD), two NIH-supported programs within the Office for Diversity in Science Training. She says her success in developing programs — and securing funding to sustain them — can be translated campuswide.
“I have a passion for offering opportunities to succeed to all students, and the Multicultural Scholars Program meets crucial needs for groups of traditionally underserved individuals. Many of the issues related to recruiting, retention and personal development of students from underrepresented groups in the sciences are common to all disciplines. As director, I will combine my experience with that of my colleagues to build on the long, successful history of the MSP," she said.
The executive director is responsible for leading the nine Multicultural Scholars Programs across campus. The program is scheduled to grow significantly in the next few years as part of KU’s comprehensive undergraduate student progression and graduation plan. Ann Cudd, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Studies, chaired the executive director search committee and said Gavosto was well-prepared to expand the program.
“Retention of students from diverse populations is of particular concern as KU strives to meet our goal of achieving a 90 percent first-year retention rate and a 70 percent six-year graduation rate," Cudd said. "Estela’s experience working with disciplines across campus will be a tremendous benefit, particularly as she collaborates with programs that interact with Multicultural Scholars, such as Admissions and Undergraduate Studies. We are excited to have her as part of the team improving the educational experience for KU undergraduates.”
Gavosto first began working with the Office for Diversity in Science Training while serving as associate chair and director of undergraduate studies for mathematics from 2000-09. She stepped down as director in 2009 to focus her efforts on programs to assist underrepresented groups of students. In her role with the Office for Diversity in Science Training, she has worked with faculty from disciplines ranging from philosophy to pharmaceutical chemistry and collaborated with faculty from Haskell Indian Nations University. She hopes to build on those collaborations as director of the Multicultural Scholars Program.
“Most importantly, I want to continue increasing the size of the MSP overall while fulfilling the needs and individual characteristics of the individual programs. I believe we have an important role to play in meeting KU’s goals for diversity, recruiting and retention, particularly with the upcoming changes to admissions criteria. I hope to collaborate more with units across campus to better serve both current and prospective students," she said.
Gavosto holds an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina, and master's and doctoral degrees in mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis. She held postdoctoral positions at Princeton University and the University of Michigan before coming to KU. Her leadership training includes being a vice-chancellor fellow in 2002, a National Science Foundation Advance Leadership Institute Scholar in 2003 and a participant in the 2011 SACNAS Summer Leadership Institute. She has been a recipient of the Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence and the Bernerd Fink award in 2000, the J. Michael Young Advisor Award in 2004 and, recently, the 2014 Kansas Section of the Mathematical Association of America Teaching Award.