Six months into a five-year federal grant designed to increase the ranks of women in academic science and engineering careers, Lehigh is making progress on several fronts.
Lehigh was one of just seven schools to receive funding last year from the National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE-Institutional Transformation program. The $2.6 million grant is part of a national push to address the gender gap which has historically existed in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
The STEM programs at Lehigh, as defined by NSF, include the departments of biological sciences, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, mathematics, physics, psychology, sociology/anthropology, economics, and the disciplines within the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. Collectively, male faculty members out-number female faculty by about 4.3-to-1 in these areas at Lehigh.
To reduce isolation and enhance collegiality, the Lehigh ADVANCE program launched “LU-WISE: Women in Science and Engineering” this spring. The group has already met twice, with almost half of STEM women participating.
Sibel Pamukcu, professor of civil and environmental engineering and one of the co-principal investigators on the grant, believes strongly in creating a structure within the university for women in science and engineering to build community.
“First we will focus on the relationships between women at Lehigh, then we will expand the network to women scholars in the region,” Pamukcu says. “We can learn about one another professionally, by explaining the research we do and perhaps identify new collaborations, new ways to solve problems. But LU-WISE can also discuss career challenges and tips for success, be a forum to foster mentoring or support each other on work-life balance issues, too.”
Among numerous other positive steps taken are:
- In February, Lehigh ADVANCE joined with Lehigh Women’s Studies to bring Dr. Susan Basow of Lafayette College in to speak about her research on “Gender and STEM Course Evaluations: Teaching While Female.”
- Tina Richardson, associate professor of education, has been named special assistant to the provost for the ADVANCE Grant’s Leadership Initiatives, which enable Lehigh to offer its faculty the opportunity to examine and grow their professional skill sets. “Through ADVANCE, we will build a better framework for support and recognition of women who can thrive as leaders in all contexts,” Richardson says.
- To close the spring semester, faculty from STEM departments have been invited to attend a half-day workshop on May 18 designed to help faculty in STEM fields gain personalized insights into academic leadership, a range of achieving styles, and ways that individuals and institutions can develop effective leaders to transform their institution.
The ADVANCE Grant Leadership Team, which is responsible for implementing the project, is chaired by Provost Patrick Farrell, who serves as principal investigator. Serving as co-principal investigators are Pamukcu; Jeffrey Sands, professor of biological sciences; Diane Hyland, professor of pyschology; and Jackie Krasas, associate professor of sociology and anthropology. Mooi Choo Chuah, associate professor of computer science and engineering, and Susan Szczepanski, associate professor of mathematics, were appointed in January as ADVANCE chairs for 2011 to bring fresh ideas to the leadership team, participate in the leadership and retention interviews, and help develop and participate in workshops and other programs.
Complete information about ADVANCE is now available on a new website, www.lehigh.edu/luadvance, developed by the Lehigh ADVANCE Grant Leadership Team and the Provost’s Office in partnership with the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.
“The site really is the window into Lehigh ADVANCE,” Farrell says. “When the fifth year is upon us, we can look back and see all of the tangible outcomes, workshop summaries, toolkits and publications that will inform Lehigh’s policies. The website lets us easily share our efforts towards transforming Lehigh’s work culture, maximizing the promise of our Strategic Plan, and providing a model for other institutions our size.”