UH Receives $3.3 Million Grant to Promote Women in STEM Fields

By Jeannie Kever

The University of Houston has received a $3.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to increase the number of women faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, as well as to ensure they have opportunities to move into leadership roles.

Grant
Associate physics professor and alumna Donna Stokes

The five-year grant is part of the foundation’s ADVANCE program, which is intended to increase the number of women in academic science and engineering careers. The University has established a Center for ADVANCING Faculty Success to oversee its goal of increasing female faculty recruitment in STEM fields, especially among women of color.

Renu Khator, president of UH and chancellor of the University System, is principal investigator on the grant.

“It is so important that we ensure that women are given the opportunity to succeed as faculty members in all disciplines, not just for the University of Houston, but for the future,” Khator said. “That is why I am so pleased the University has been chosen for the ADVANCE grant. While I am the principal investigator, the real credit goes to the deans and faculty leaders in colleges across the campus as we work to achieve our goals.”

Co-investigators on the grant are Bonnie Dunbar, M.D. Anderson Professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering, director of the UH STEM Center and the aerospace engineering program; Joseph W. Tedesco, dean of the Cullen College of Engineering; Dan Wells, interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; and Holly Hutchins, associate professor of human development and consumer sciences in the College of Technology.

Paula Myrick Short, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, serves as director of the new center.

While Khator, a political scientist, and Short, an education policy expert, are both in STEM fields according to the NSF criteria and fill the two top academic positions on the UH campus, other senior leadership positions on campus are predominantly male. In fall 2012, when the grant application was prepared, 23 percent of tenured or tenure-track STEM faculty at UH were women, many of those at the assistant professor level; 3 percent were women of color.

“The future of the engineering profession in the U.S. depends on women and minorities,” Tedesco said. “In order to attract more women STEM students, and especially more women of color, we need more minority and women STEM role models in leadership positions throughout our STEM colleges.”

“It is so important that we ensure that women are given the opportunity to succeed as faculty members in all disciplines, not just for the University of Houston, but for the future.” Renu Khator, UH System chancellor and UH president

Lisa Robertson, executive director for external relations and strategic partnerships for the Cullen College of Engineering and interim managing director for the Center for ADVANCING Faculty Success, said increasing the number of faculty women of color, as well as women in senior leadership positions, will be key priorities.

Strategies will include workshops on inclusion and diversity, search committee training for department chairs and a work-life integration committee that will make recommendations on child care and policies for hiring two-career couples, Robertson said.

Hutchins said the new center will be well-positioned to accelerate the recruitment, development and advancement of women STEM faculty, while the faculty team will lead activities to support gender equity across the campus. Another initiative will establish a fellowship allowing up to three women faculty members per year to work in senior administrative roles.

The UH proposal also called for establishing an ADVANCE Regional Network linking UH, Rice University, Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University and the University of Texas-Pan American to share expertise through mentoring programs, peer-to-peer workshops and other events. Each of the five universities is a current or past participate in the five-year ADVANCE program, allowing them to share their experiences.


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