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ADVANCE announces departmental transformation grants

The ADVANCE Steering Committee has awarded three departmental transformation grants for 2002­03. The grants will be used to facilitate efforts designed to significantly transform the environment for women faculty in science and engineering, and were awarded in response to 12 proposals submitted individually and jointly by 15 participating departments.

The three funded proposals are from the Department of Chemistry ($235,000 for four years), the departments of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering ($165,000 over four years), and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) ($70,000 over three years), project director Abigail Stewart says.

"These proposals were striking in the combination of ambition and practicality and realism. And it was very clear that they reflected a real commitment by the applicants," Stewart says. "That was vital, because we know that this transformation will only work if the scientists and engineers themselves want to do it and can put together a program that suits their own environment."

"The number of applications that were received, and their uniformly high quality, attest to the fact that our scientists are taking this problem very seriously," says LSA Interim Dean Terrence McDonald. "Our goal is to make the University of Michigan a welcoming place for every faculty member, and these grants will help us advance toward that goal."

The chemistry proposal identified a number of barriers to increasing the number of women faculty in the department and proposed several methods to circumvent each of the obstacles, including more creative recruiting techniques, incentives to search committees to interview female candidates, additional resources for junior faculty women, and actions to evaluate and enhance the departmental climate for both male and female faculty. The proposal was discussed and reviewed widely in the department.

The departments of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering teamed up to develop a joint program that would help the women faculty in their departments overcome barriers to promotion and advancement. Their proposed plan will address issues of balancing career and family with a career development release program. They also plan to pursue an international travel grant program and a more structured mentorship program.

The Electrical Engineering and Computer Science proposal stated, "We intend to turn EECS at UM into a leader in women's engineering education." The proposal defined forward-thinking action items in areas including faculty recruitment, retention and promotion, and climate issues.

"I am very pleased that several of our departments submitted proposals aimed at addressing faculty gender issues, and that parts of two of these will be funded. I have great expectations that through this funding we will be able to begin to make a real difference in the environment for female faculty in the College of Engineering (CoE)," says CoE Dean Stephen Director.

Science and engineering departments not funded this year will be free to apply in next year's competition.

One-year LSA ADVANCE grants also were awarded to five proposals from LSA:

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, for a work/life speaker series and career development workshops;

• Geology/Physics/Astronomy, for internal and external research seminars and workshops, and self-study activities;

• Mathematics, for an additional nurturing leave, a research fund and a distinguished lecture series;

• Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, for activities designed to increase a sense of community among women faculty, both internally and with eminent role models;

• Statistics, to support the mentoring and departmental intellectual climate for women faculty members.

Stewart is quick to point out that the ADVANCE program has many elements that science and engineering departments throughout the University can make use of, regardless of their funding. "We set the program up that way deliberately, so that all departments can work on this issue with or without a grant, if they want to," she says.

Some examples include enlisting help from the STRIDE (Science and Technology Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence) Committee to define recruiting strategies and/or consult on specific department issues; organizing focus groups and conducting interviews to identify problem areas; providing discipline-based data; or inviting the CRLT Players to help dramatize issues about working environments in a constructive way.

ADVANCE is a five-year, National Science Foundation-funded project to promote institutional transformation in science and engineering fields and address issues of special concern to women faculty in science and engineering. For more information, visit http://www.umich.edu/~advproj/.

 

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