Women of Color (WoC) Research Team

During the first two years of the AdvanceRIT project, the WoC research team conducted two focus groups, consisting largely of tenure-track STEM WoC faculty at RIT during the spring of 2013.

Women of Color Key Activities Include:

  • Collect and analyze institutional data.
  • Thoroughly review the university’s diversity initiatives and policies.
  • Design the focus group protocols and individual interviews.
  • Conduct the focus groups and analyze data.
  • Based on results of qualitative research results/themes, design and administer interventions and assess results.
  • Disseminate results and create institutionalization strategy.

Participants self-selected from a wide e-mail call, using the snowball non-probability sampling technique. This technique was selected given RIT protected status restrictions on race demographic data. Therefore, there was no way to identify prospective participants who identified with the WoC group. The researchers sent out a scripted invitation that outlined the purpose of the project. It pointed out that the focus-group discussion would be audio-and-video-recorded and that we would preserve the participants’ confidentiality so that they could not be identified outside of the research group. The focus group facilitators were WoC faculty members chosen from a neighboring university. At the outset of the focus groups, they reminded the participants that the project aims were to ascertain barriers to WoC faculty’s career advancement. Seven STEM WoC faculty participated in the focus groups, four in one focus group and three in the other. Each participant was given an opportunity to respond to the questions, with each focus group lasting 90 minutes.

The researchers undertook a qualitative analysis of the data obtained from the two focus groups’ transcripts using the constant-comparative method. This enabled identification of patterns in the data to reveal similarities and differences. The analysis entailed a three-phase approach. The first phase (open coding) permitted identification of ideas, themes, and issues. The second phase (focused coding) produced a reduced set of related ideas, topics, and themes, and the third phase allowed for identifying concepts that tied into the emic themes that cut across the two focus groups. 

The following five main themes emerged:

  • Absence of Professional-Personal Life Balance & Respect
  • Feeling of Isolation/Not Belonging
  • Lack of Access to Influential Internal Networks
  • Mission Drift & Criteria Creep
  • Lack of Effective Mentorship

The Women of Color social science research effort was led by Professor Kijana Crawford (SP) and also included Professor dt ogilvie.

Promotion and Tenure (P&T) Smarts 2013-2015

In 2013 the Advance Women of Color (WoC) research team started a Promotion and Tenure Series (P&T Smarts) for AALANA faculty to support their career advancement.

The process leading to tenure and promotion at an academic institution is sometimes fraught with   tension and uncertainty. Faculty from underrepresented groups, especially women, have to navigate a more difficult terrain than their fellow white male colleagues, for a variety of reasons, do. Although the usual navigation through this terrain is rather solitary, we believe there is value in sharing experiences, best practices, and smart strategies that will position the faculty to succeed with the least amount of professional, personal, and emotional disruption. The purpose of P&T Smarts was to build a community  of support and strategic thinking around issues of tenure and promotion. Experienced faculty and administrators facilitated regular discussions on the various issues confronting faculty, engaged in deep discussion about smart strategies and helped develop a sense of common purpose and support to lead   to a sustainable pipeline for success and a stronger community of teachers and scholars. We conducted hands on exercises on issues ranging from networking and building relationships, to best practices to  write and present scholarly work, building a strong and balanced P&T portfolio, etc. Dean Hector Flores (Graduate Studies Office) initially facilitated P&T Smarts with the partnership of experienced faculty that engaged in informal mentoring and guidance. The only requirements for joining P&T Smarts were to commit 1-2 hours a month for our discussions and to come prepared by reading articles or doing assignments, as appropriate.

Dean Flores moderated P&T Smarts sessions with assistance from Dr. dt ogilvie when she joined the WoC team. It became clear from the P&T Smarts sessions and discussions with AALANA faculty and Dr. Crawford’s research that a more robust development effort was needed. Thus, with support from an AdvanceRIT Connect grant, P&T SMARTS was born, which incorporated and went beyond P&T Smarts.

Writing Research In Teams for effectiveness (wRITe)

“wRITe” deals with the most important criterion for scholarship success for tenure and promotion, scholarly output. It formalizes writing circles, a supportive writing community, which research shows have a tremendous impact on faculty productivity, a necessary condition for tenure and promotion. The target audience is women faculty, with an emphasis and focus on women of color and deaf and hard of hearing faculty who must publish as part of their plan of work and who must publish to achieve tenure as assistant professor or promotion to full professor. We set up formal writing circles of three to four faculty each and support them with several tools to help them be productive. Groups meet in person, by phone, or Blue Jeans/Skype once a week. They keep track of their accumulated word count, pages, and daily track of their writing and report the results to their writing circle once a week and to the organizers once a month.

Promotion and Tenure Strategies for Minority-women Academics at RIT for Transformative Success (P&T SMARTS)

PI: dt ogilvie; Co-PIs: Kijana Crawford, Danielle Smith, Twyla Cummings, Charlotte Thoms.

P&T SMARTS directly relates to the mission and goals of AdvanceRIT. We designed it to advance the career success of AALANA Women faculty. This proposal directly addresses the goal of NSF’s ADVANCE Program, which is to increase the representation and advancement of women of color (WoC) in academic science and engineering. It also directly addresses the goals of AdvanceRIT’s Institutional Transformation grant, which “seeks to improve conditions for women STEM faculty with a particular emphasis on women of color… including mentoring specifically designed to address the unique concerns of women who are members of underrepresented groups (e.g., women of color…).”

Our primary goal is to actively help non-tenured tenure-track and tenured AALANA Women faculty to develop successful careers at RIT and to retain them by offering a multi-faceted strategic approach offering advice, feedback, guidance, and best practices that reflect a deep understanding of the unique issues and challenges that AALANA Women faculty face.

Professional Development Workshops:

  • Publish & Flourish: Become a Prolific Scholar, presented by Dr. Tara Gray, associate professor of criminal justice and the founding director of the Teaching Academy at New Mexico State University. Dr. Gray has presented workshops to more than 8,000 scholars in 100 institutions, 35 states, and Guatemala, Mexico, Canada, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. She is the author of Publish and Flourish: Become a Prolific Scholar and two other books.
  • PROMOTION & TENURE SMARTS: A Series of Productivity Workshops for Faculty & PhD Students presented by Dr. Tara Gray.
  • The importance and “how-to” of efficient (and effective) course prep for women faculty of color is presented by Dr. Chavella Pittman. Dr. Pittman is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Dominican University. Her research interests include interpersonal race and ethnic relations, gender, and higher education. Her publications include "Race and Gender Oppression in the Classroom: The Experiences of Women Faculty of Color with White Male Students” and "Exploring How African American Faculty Cope with Classroom Racial Stressors.”
  • Why (and how) measures of teaching effectiveness should move beyond student teaching evaluations, presented by Dr. Chavella Pittman. This session presented research on the strengths and limitations of student teaching evaluations. Participants learned and practiced several strategies women faculty of color should enact to document student learning to build their case for teaching effectiveness.
  • Overcoming Barriers to Living a Balanced Life presented by Dr. Tracey Laszloffy. This workshop examined the unique challenges that female faculty of color face, especially those on the tenure track including how to counteract devaluation, assessed when and how to address bias, negotiated conflicts effectively and created essential support networks. Ultimately, participants learned ways of re-energizing a depleted spirit and achieving greater balance between work and family/life.

Partnership Grant

PIs: dt ogilvie & Kijana Crawford.

Our goals are to increase the representation of tenured and full professor AALANA Women STEM/SBS faculty at RIT through offering new, targeted programs designed to increase and advance Assistant and Associate Women of Color faculty at RIT by enhancing existing faculty development efforts by the Institute and AdvanceRIT. Additionally, we will address the unique challenges experienced by Women of Color faculty and share and promote best practices and strategies to address their needs, including empowerment, inclusion, and other aspects of their professional quality of life. This will be done through a series of workshops crafted to provide the WoC faculty the information, skills, and strategies they need to address the challenges they face and mentoring initiatives designed to meet their needs as junior and mid-career faculty.

This grant allows P&T SMARTS to continue to actively support non-tenure-track, tenure-track, and tenured AALANA faculty to develop successful careers at RIT and to retain them by offering a series of workshops crafted to provide information, skills, and strategies they may need for career navigation.

Professional Development Workshops:

  • Become a Prolific Scholar, a workshop with Tara Gray from New Mexico State University. This workshop was co-sponsored Textbook and Academic Authors (TAA) and the Office of the Provost.
  • Strategies for Teaching Effectiveness, presented by Dr. Keith B. Jenkins and Dr. Reginald Rogers, RIT.
  • Strategies and Choices for Publishing an Academic Book, presented by Bruce Austin, RIT Press’s Director. His academic training is in mediated communication, Before coming to the Press, he was Professor and Chair of the Department (now School) of Communication for 15 years, His writing ranges from scholarly research on the audiences for theatrical motion pictures to journalistic reporting on antiques for a number of periodicals.
  • Promotion to Full professor: Strategies for Preparing a Strong Case Workshop. Presenters: Jeremy Haefner, Twyla Cummings, Sophia Maggelakis, Doreen Edwards, Peter C. Hauser, RIT.
  • Strategies for Teaching Effectiveness, Presented by Dr. Laverne McQuiller-Williams and Professor Joe Williams.
  • Basic elements of a proposal and resources available at RIT. Presenters: Margaret Bailey, Kara Maki, David Bond, and Maria Cortes, RIT.

Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Connectivity Series

In 2013, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) series invited NTID DHH women participants to develop    an agenda for future events. Examples of DHH Connectivity series offerings include discussions with hearing and DHH guests regarding barriers to advancement and strategies for achieving career goals, a panel of experts discussing how to develop proposals for external funding, a meeting with the NTID  Dean, and advice regarding building international networks and partnerships. 

Sessions take a range of formats including on campus events and teleconference events using the NTID CISCO teleconference system. This is an important feature of the series since the population of DHH women academics and professionals is relatively small and often are located fart from RIT; teleconferencing allows DHH NTID women faculty to interact with colleagues nationally and internationally. A subset of the participants in    the career goal sessions decided to work on individualized career planning through collaborative meetings.

Another participant submitted a competitive internal proposal for bringing an internationally known DHH woman to campus; the proposal was funded through a Connect Grant offered through an ADVANCE initiative and as a result Dr. Liisa Kauppenin (recipient of the 2013 United Nations Human Rights Award and former president of the World Federation of the Deaf) presented in both an open session to the university and in special session to DHH women.

Feedback is collected via paper survey at the end of each session. Results indicate a high level of satisfaction with the events and have generated ideas for future events. Examples of Likert questions focused on the degree to which the session was useful, related to career goals, involved presenters knowledgeable presenters, and whether achieved stated objectives. The  average  response  was between 4.25-4.7 on a scale of 1-5. The Connectivity series is entirely managed by the DHH members of the team.

Color. These colleagues believed that that they could also benefit from attending Connectivity Series sessions, and requested that they be open to all. The team considered these requests and, with the support of NTID President Buckley who provided additional funding, the DHH Connectivity Series expanded to include two formats - one a smaller and closed session for DHH women only and a second session open to all NTID and RIT faculty.

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) faculty continue to meet regularly for their Connectivity Series gatherings and formal speaker sessions. Based on NTID faculty feedback and with the support of NTID President Buckley, the DHH Connectivity Series is now offered in two (DHH and ALL faculty) session formats for all faculty to have the opportunity to attend. The DHH Research Team’s focus group findings uncovered themes of career pathways, mentoring and networking.


Nancy Hilbok Amann A February 2017 workshop was presented by Nancy Hlibok Amann. Nancy  Hlibok Amann is the superintendent of California School for the Deaf in Riverside. She earned bachelor and master degrees in Government and Administration from Gallaudet University, and worked at the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in various positions before earning her Ph.D. in bi- literacy and reading from the University of Arizona. She became a literacy specialist and in 2006, a school administrator. In 2013, Hlibok Amann became the director of Special Projects and Development  at Deaf Community Services in San Diego, and then a high school teacher in the San Diego Unified School District.

This presentation had three sessions over the course of two days, and was for deaf women in administration, including a session for all faculty regarding the past, present, and future of deaf education.

Johanna Lucht A March 2018 workshop, “Flying” Through Barriers at NASA, was presented by Engineer, Johanna Lucht. Johanna Lucht has made history by becoming the first Deaf engineer to take an active control role during a NASA mission! Lucht, who was born deaf, works at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, where she recently served as a systems engineer for tests of a  new type of NASA aircraft. It was a gratifying moment after years of overcoming obstacles to education and communication. “When I was a child, I essentially missed my schooling between preschool and part of NASA.”

Lucht was born in Germany where resources for Deaf children were limited at the time. As a result, she didn't learn her first true language, American Sign Language or ASL, until the age of nine. “Math was    the first thing I really understood in school, so I always had a love for it, growing up," she recalls. “It was something I worked at understanding, and it became my favorite subject." She later moved to the U.S. where more accessible programs for Deaf people were available, and eventually studied computer science at the University of Minnesota. Lucht says that catching up on other subjects helped prepare    her for NASA’s high-intensity environment: “The catch-up was of course overload, but that really helped me in being able to work here and handle moderate to large information on a daily basis.”

While studying for her degree, she discovered the NASA internship program and decided to apply. When she received the offer, Lucht says that she was "shocked," but she quickly distinguished herself as an intern in NASA Armstrong’s research and engineering department. The internship turned into a full-time job and NASA arranged for Lucht to work regularly with one interpreter, and set up a second monitor so she could watch flight data while also receiving ASL translations. Lucht says that employers can ensure that they don’t miss out on talent by understanding that obstacles facing Deaf employees can be overcome with a little creativity. “We all meet the challenges that are presented in the  environment, and do what we can to overcome it,” she explains. And, Lucht encourages kids facing similar obstacles not to give up: “You must always keep an open mind for opportunities. You never know when one might come by,” she says. “I never thought I would work for NASA, until they offered me a spot... Follow your motivation.”