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Updated 3:00 PM July 30, 2007
 

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Initiative recognizes faculty involvement in and out of work

A new University effort, Engaged Academic Lives Initiative, aims to place value in the many ways senior faculty members in science and engineering contribute to communities on and off campus.

Multiple roles in work and life inform and enrich individuals, and academic careers are no exception. This new initiative, part of the U-M ADVANCE Project, will study through focus groups the ways in which faculty contribute personally and professionally. A Web site will recognizes their efforts.

Ann Marie Sastry, a professor of mechanical, biomedical and material science and engineering, directs the initiative that begins late fall 2007.

Some people think professors are disengaged and focus solely on their careers, which is not accurate, Sastry says. "The multiple commitments and complex lives of faculty are well-documented," she says, "and now is an opportune time to learn from this highly engaged cohort, not only how they do what they do, but also how these multiple roles inform and enrich one another."

Abigail Stewart, ADVANCE project director, says faculty will have an opportunity to recognize the many ways in which they make contributions to families, schools, religious institutions, neighborhoods and communities. Documenting these examples will offer new and vivid evidence to young scholars, including women and underrepresented groups, that faculty life is compatible with other responsibilities, she says.

Stewart, a professor of psychology and women's studies, says concern about whether a life rich in multiple commitments is possible for University faculty is one factor that causes women and minorities to resist considering careers in science and engineering.

Provost Teresa Sullivan applauds the initiative because accomplished faculty members can "share their stories of how they successfully integrate and enjoy the different components of their lives."

"I am pleased that Professor Sastry will direct this initiative," Sullivan says. "Her accomplishments as a researcher, teacher and mentor make her particularly well-suited to lead this effort."

The proposed Web site will illuminate the faculty member as someone leading an engaged academic life, as well as link with existing relevant resources on and off campus. It also will give a different image of faculty life for potential students, job candidates and public, Stewart says.

"It will be a location that celebrates and encourages faculty members' multiple commitments," Stewart says. "We are indebted to Professor Sastry for her innovative work in developing this initiative, and I look forward to working with her on it."

The ADVANCE Project, which is housed within the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, began as a five-year, grant-funded initiative promoting institutional transformation with respect to women faculty in science and engineering fields. With the University's commitment to continue funding through June 2011, the program gradually will expand to promoting other kinds of diversity among faculty and students in all fields.

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