West Virginia University has received a $3.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help increase the number of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematic disciplines, and to encourage these scientists with advanced degrees to consider academia as a viable and attractive career option.

The grant, one of only a handful given each year, is awarded under the NSF’s ADVANCE program, which is dedicated to developing systemic approaches to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers and contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce. It’s the first ADVANCE grant the University has received.

“This announcement marks a significant day in the life of West Virginia University as it underscores the University’s commitment to being a global, diverse research university with an even greater emphasis on becoming more competitive for federal research and education dollars,” President James P. Clements said.

“This grant is central to our efforts to promote participation and leadership by women in STEM fields, which in turn is essential to making WVU internationally competitive in research and education. I want to congratulate and thank all of the faculty and staff members who worked so hard to earn this great opportunity for our University.”

The NSF grant will support creation of the WVU Program for Retaining Institutional Diversity and Equity – otherwise known as WVU PRIDE – and include establishment of the WVU ADVANCE Center.

The WVU PRIDE program will be a university-wide, multi-level project to assess, engage and support change at the department level. The University’s long-term goal is to ensure the success of all faculty members by creating a diverse scientific community within WVU that supports constructive interactions leading to professional and personal development.

“This ADVANCE proposal was conceived in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and was developed in partnership with the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. However the intent is to improve the recruitment, retention and advancement of STEM women wherever they reside in the academy and so we expect the initiative to affect women in Davis, Business and Economics and also in the basic sciences in the Health Sciences Center, said Provost Michele Wheatly.

“The bottom line is that this grant heralds an institution-wide impetus to become a more diverse academic community, a prerequisite for any world class research university,” she said.

“Personally I am tickled pink to chair the internal advisory board and draw from my own experiences as a STEM researcher to mentor other young women faculty and students wherever I have the opportunity. WVU owes a debt of gratitude to the team that captured this large grant. They did everything right, spent two years building the case and brought home a major win on first submission. Bravo!”

U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, the 1st District congressman who chairs the House subcommittee that funds NSF, said, “The need for improved math and science education to further the United State’s competitiveness in innovation has long been a focus for me in Congress. “I commend WVU for its successful pursuit of NSF funding that will accelerate those improvements by increasing opportunities for women in science and math specialties.”

“Congratulations to WVU for securing this NSF funding to assist the University in its efforts to increase the number of women engaged in the sciences,” said Senator Carte Goodwin. “WVU now has the opportunity to further its teaching and research capabilities, an effort that will benefit students and teachers alike.”

WVU PRIDE has three specific goals:

  • To make direct connections between individuals and the policies and practices of WVU.
  • To engage faculty from departments and disciplines throughout the university in a process that promotes collective engagement in institutional transformation and the achievement of gender-equity and diversity goals.
  • To recruit, retain, and promote more women science and engineering faculty, beginning in the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at WVU, but eventually spreading through the entire University where women are engaged in STEM fields.

“West Virginia University is poised for significant changes, funneled by new leadership that is committed to equity and diversity,” said Melissa Latimer, co-principal investigator on the grant and the new interim director of the WVU ADVANCE Center. “Strong campus-level support for increasing STEM diversity and improving the work-life conditions for all WVU faculty was evidenced throughout the proposal development process.

“By receiving an NSF ADVANCE award, we can combine these substantial and competitive resources with our current campus commitment in order to profoundly and positively transform our institution,” she added.

Those involved in the grant include:

Clements; Wheatly; J. Kasi Jackson, assistant professor of women’s studies; Professor Fred King, associate dean of research and graduate studies in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences; Melissa Latimer, associate professor and chair of sociology and anthropology; Leslie Tower, associate professor social work and public administration; Marjorie Darrah, associate professor of mathematics; Maura McLaughlin, assistant professor of physics; James Nolan, associate professor sociology and anthropology; Katie Stores, Ph.D., grant development officer , Eberly College of Arts and Sciences; and Michelle Withers, assistant professor of biology.

In addition to the internal stakeholders, an external advisory board will assess the effectiveness of the program. Jim Hougland, professor of sociology at the University of Kentucky, will act as external reviewer. Members of the external advisory board include faculty and administrators from Auburn University, Iowa State University, the National Energy Technology Laboratory, Purdue University, University of Oregon, University of Rhode Island and Utah State University.



CONTACT: WVU University Relations/News

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