The National Science Foundation has awarded $1 million to Missouri S&T to support the university’s efforts to attract, retain and advance more women faculty into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Dr. Jessica Cundiff, associate professor of psychological science, will lead the three-year project, which is intended to increase the representation of women, especially women from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, on the faculty of Missouri S&T STEM programs and in leadership positions. The funding comes from the NSF ADVANCE project, which provides grants to help colleges and universities improve gender equity in STEM fields.
Like many STEM-focused universities, Missouri S&T’s student body is predominantly male. Roughly 23% of S&T’s 7,200 students are women. Cundiff notes that increasing the number of women instructors – who serve as role models to their students – could help draw more female students into STEM fields, especially engineering.
“Increasing the representation of women faculty at Missouri S&T has the potential to transform what it means to become an engineer to citizens in the region and make Missouri S&T a true destination of choice for all,” Cundiff says.
Overall, 47 of the 227 tenured or tenure-track STEM faculty at S&T are women, and only two of those women identify with a racial-ethnic group that is underrepresented in STEM fields.
“Increasing the diversity of our faculty greatly benefits our students, as it helps prepare them for a more diverse, global work force,” says Dr. Colin Potts, Missouri S&T provost and executive vice chancellor of academic affairs. “Missouri S&T, and society at large, must do better at ensuring more women, especially women from underrepresented groups, are in our classrooms and labs to teach and mentor our future engineers and scientists.”
Potts is working with Cundiff on the project, as are Dr. Richard K. Brow, interim deputy provost for academic excellence; Dr. Kathleen M. Drowne, special assistant to the provost for faculty development; and Dr. Robert J. Marley, the Robert B. Koplar Professor of Engineering Management.
Cundiff says the group has identified three barriers to the recruitment and advancement of women in STEM at S&T: the campus climate, gender bias, and unequal access to resources and opportunities. “Our focus is on implementing evidence-based strategies that will address these underlying barriers and cultivate an inclusive climate where all faculty, especially faculty from underrepresented groups, can thrive,” she says.
The team looked to successful past ADVANCE projects to develop three strategies to improve the representation of women in STEM and leadership positions at S&T:
- Provide education and leadership development opportunities for current and aspiring leaders at S&T. Approaches toward this strategy include inviting nationally known experts in diversity, climate and gender issues to speak on campus, revising bias training for search committees, offering training for leaders to help them better understand equity issues, and holding mentoring sessions for mid-career faculty.
- Provide grants to individual academic programs to develop approaches to address equity issues specific to their programs.
- Establish a faculty fellows program for faculty who want to become equity-minded academic leaders as well as an ombud position in the provost’s office to give voice to faculty concerns. The faculty fellows program will allow participants to work on projects that address equity issues on campus, including policies related to tenure and promotion, faculty workload, and leadership accountability.
The project and activities will be managed under a new Center for Inclusive Excellence at S&T. Cundiff will serve as director of the center.
The team will measure success through an array of approaches, including measuring changes in the number of women and underrepresented faculty at S&T, in faculty perception of the university’s climate, in awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion concepts, in the demographics of applicants for faculty positions, and in key policies and practices.
“I applaud Dr. Cundiff and the entire team for securing this important and highly competitive grant,” says Missouri S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani. “These initiatives will greatly enhance our efforts to recruit more women into our faculty and leadership ranks, retain more women in these positions, and provide greater opportunities for their professional advancement as well as that of the university. This in turn will support our efforts to make S&T a true destination of choice.”
About Missouri University of Science and Technology
Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,200 students. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System and located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 101 degree programs in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top 10 universities for return on investment, according to Business Insider. S&T also is home to the Kummer Institute, made possible by a $300 million gift from Fred and June Kummer. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.