UVA Wise is partnering with three institutions on a $1 million National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant to promote gender equity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields.

The College is working in collaboration with SUNY Geneseo along with University of North Carolina-Asheville and Georgia College. The project is expected to have impacts across all of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges.

Professor Josephine Rodriguez is a co-lead on the project. She explained that the NSF awarded the grant to support women faculty in STEM.

“It is a COPLAC wide initiative,” she said. “One of the leaders of the project is UVA Wise. The program is expected to promote gender equality in the STEM fields.”

According to a release from SUNY Geneseo, the ADVANCE PLAN project will be led by Wendy Pogozelski, SUNY distinguished teaching professor of chemistry, and Karleen West, associate professor of political science and international relations. The project provides opportunities for Geneseo and the 28 additional institutions that make up COPLAC to bring research-based training in gender equity issues to administrators and to provide networking opportunities for women faculty and faculty from underrepresented groups.

“Although recent decades have shown improvement in access and climate for women in STEM, women still remain underrepresented in professorial ranks,” said Pogozelski. “This grant will fund a multi-tiered approach to providing transformational institutional change to COPLAC schools.”

The ADVANCE PLAN will be directed by Pogozelski and West at Geneseo, with the co-direction of faculty from three other COPLAC institutions: Chavonda Mills, interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgia College; Rodriguez, assistant professor of biology at University of Virginia’s College at Wise, and Sally Wasileski, associate professor and chair of chemistry at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Cara Margherio, assistant director of the Center for Evaluation and Research for STEM Equity at the University of Washington, is signed on to the project to provide assessment and expertise.

Rodriguez explained that COPLAC members, like other institutions, face similar challenges that may contribute to inequities in the career success and advancement of their STEM faculty. The program will work to create institutional change within COPLAC by training administrators and department chairs to recognize bias, identify intersectional policies and solve issues that contribute to gender inequalities in STEM. The second objective is to provide professional support and networking to women STEM faculty through interest-based affinity groups within COPLAC to foster community, empowerment, research collaboration, mentoring, and solutions to overcoming gender-based barriers to career advancement.

Small colleges or universities may be geographically isolated, and many women professors may be the only person of their gender in the department or even in the region, she explained. The affinity groups may ease some of the isolation.

According to the news release by Geneseo, observational data and feedback surveys will help both tailor the training and assess its impact throughout the consortium. In addition, a series of research questions for both the professional development workshops and the affinity groups will address factors influencing the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in STEM. The intent is to publish the findings and contribute to the understanding of the policies and factors that support the success of women and underrepresented groups.