FAU Receives $1 Million NSF Grant to Empower Women in STEM Faculty

FAU, FAU Entrance, Florida Atlantic University

(Photo by Alex Dolce)

By gisele galoustian | 12/8/2022

The absence of an inclusive and diverse STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) faculty significantly hurts the education of a STEM workforce by the lack of role models to help educate diverse groups of students. Demographically unrepresentative science also can negatively impact and neglect research in areas that communities and societies need.

Florida Atlantic University has received a three-year, nearly $1 million National Science Foundation ADVANCE ADAPTATION grant to help transform faculty diversity and ensure appropriate representation of women in STEM. This grant continues the work of the late Emmanuelle Tognoli, Ph.D., who served as a research professor in FAU’s Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences within the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and a member of the FAU Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute. She was the original principal investigator of the submitted proposal who led the design of the initiatives and interventions that led to a successful grant submission, which is now allowing FAU to implement these initiatives. 

The NSF ADVANCE program is designed to foster gender equity through a focus on the identification and elimination of organizational barriers that impede the full participation and advancement of diverse faculty in academic institutions. Organizational barriers that inhibit equity may exist in policies, processes, practices and the organizational culture and climate. ADVANCE “Adaptation” awards provide support for the adaptation and adoption of evidence-based strategies to the academic, nonprofit institutions of higher education as well as non-academic, nonprofit organizations.

“Successful implementation of our program for institutional change will achieve a more representative and participatory STEM faculty and accelerate institutional competitiveness in education and research,” said Alka Sapat, Ph.D., principal investigator, professor and director of the School of Public Administration within FAU’s Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters. “The crucial outcome of this transformation will be the mitigation of STEM workforce shortages with implications for local industries, in particular, biotechnologies, aerospace, health, aging, agriculture, international trade, marine environment, information and security, and financial services.”

The project team will undertake new initiatives and build on current policies and data collection activities and will seek to advance self-sustaining interventions for diverse hiring and retention; transparent and equitable policies, information through a longitudinal demographic data dashboard of faculty; and strategic communications. These interventions will focus on inclusive support for gender diversity and intersectional minorities, most visibly, Latina and African American women, in hiring, retention and promotion.

The process will adapt evidence-based practices and innovations from sister ADVANCE institutions. To aid institutional integration and long-term sustainability, the project team will prioritize practices that will be bootstrapped with ADVANCE support and synergized with ongoing efforts and existing institutional infrastructures for diversity.

The project team will focus on the competencies of complex systems and data science to identify interconnected factors that influence systemic change. This will be accomplished with adaptive analytic approaches that are capable of processing large numbers of variables that dynamically interact on multiple levels over time. The successful implementation of this project for institutional change aims to achieve a more representative and participatory STEM faculty and accelerate institutional competitiveness in education and research. 

Co-PIs of the project are Chad Forbes, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Psychology, FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Science;  Karin Scarpinato, Ph.D., senior associate vice president for research, FAU Division of Research; Russell Ivy, Ph.D., senior associate provost for programs and assessment at FAU; and Evonne Rezler, Ph.D., senior associate dean for undergraduate studies, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.