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ADVANCE Advances
January 27, 2014

ADVANCE encourages institutions of higher education and the broader science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) community, including professional societies and other STEM-related not-for-profit organizations, to address various aspects of STEM academic culture and institutional structure that may differentially affect women faculty and academic administrators. As such, ADVANCE is an integral part of the NSF’s multifaceted strategy to broaden participation in the STEM workforce, and supports the critical role of the Foundation in advancing the status of women in academic science and engineering.

-- NSF "Advance at a Glance" website
(Footnote: http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/advance/; downloaded January 13, 2014)

While RIT has witnessed a number of 'transformational initiatives' over the years, one stands out that will truly have a positive long-term impact on our faculty: The ADVANCE institutional transformation grant entitled "Creating Opportunity Networks for Engagement and Collective Transformation: Increasing the Representation and Advancement of Women Faculty @ RIT" or simply AdvanceRIT for short. 

The National Science Foundation (NSF) made this large award last fall following a very successful NSF ADVANCE Catalyst self-study grant. The AdvanceRIT grant is led by Dr. Margaret Bailey, principal investigator and faculty member of mechanical engineering, and the co-principal investigators include Carol Marchetti (mathematics), Maureen Valentine (associate dean, CAST), and Sharon Mason (information sciences and technology). 

The goal of AdvanceRIT is to increase the representation and advancement of female faculty at RIT, ultimately resulting in the holistic transformation of the university. Specifically, the grant objectives include

  • Advancing the careers of female faculty; 
  • Increasing recruitment, retention, and advancement of female faculty;
  • Expanding representation of diverse faculty in leadership positions;
  • Sustaining institutional transformation and structures to support female faculty career development; and 
  • Improving faculty satisfaction, work experience, and quality of work-life balance. 

And the AdvanceRIT team has made tremendous progress already! For example, the team recently invited tenured and pre-tenured faculty from across all sectors of the campus to submit proposals for the new Connect Grant program; these mini-grants are designed to broaden faculty opportunities and enhance plans of work associated with tenure and promotion preparation and overall career development. The awards will be announced in February.

Another area of great interest is their work concerning dual careers. Today, many faculty have partners that are also in academia or who need assistance with finding a job. This is a real challenge for every university and RIT is no exception, so making progress on this issue is a high priority. Recently, the AdvanceRIT team was awarded an additional set of monies to help the institution develop an approach to more formally help trailing spouses and partners find employment. This in itself bodes to be transformational for the institution. 

The official "launch" of our AdvanceRIT project is scheduled for Thursday, February 13, 2014 in the University Gallery from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. and it is my hope that the campus will turn out in large numbers to support the work of the team. I strongly encourage you to attend, listen to what is in store and help us celebrate this significant initiative.

Jeremy Haefner

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