The AdvanceRIT (NSF ADVANCE 1209115) program goal is to increase the representation, retention, and career advancement of women faculty in STEM. The research team examines the unique challenges experienced by women faculty of color and Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing faculty, and refines interventions to address the needs of these key sub-populations.

The AdvanceRIT program influences long-term changes that transform RIT’s culture, promote inclusion, and expand the representation of women on campus and among leadership. Program objectives are to refine and strengthen institutional structures; improve the quality of women faculty’s work life including reward structures; align systems of power and resources to support and sustain progress; and enhance the working environment using symbolic measures which emphasize issues of meaning and significance within the organization. 

In 2018 RIT established a permanent ADVANCE office in Academic Affairs with a director and staff.  Achievements below with an asterisk will continue through this office and other University units.

Key Project Achievements:

1) Promote Faculty Advancement and Research Success – Following Programs Institutionalized

a) Created Connect Grants* program to support leadership and career development for all tenured and pre-tenured faculty at RIT by funding faculty projects consistent with the goals of AdvanceRIT. Six rounds of grants have been awarded ($330K overall with average award of $5.7K) since 2014 with 58 awards supporting 111 unique faculty members. Dozens of scholarly products resulted including funding proposals, publications, short animations and films. All of the RIT colleges have had Connect Grant awardees; 35 grants went to STEM fields, 11 went to SBS fields, and 12 went to other fields.

The Connect Grant program has resulted in strong impacts for the grantees of the programs as well as the broader RIT community, based on an evaluation of the program. Individual impacts have been related to improving women’s work life, professional development, career advancement, and improving their working environment. In particular, Connect grantees strengthened internal and external networks which led to career advancement, benefitted from mentoring relationships as mentors and mentees, built skills (including leadership skills) to support their professional development, increased their research autonomy and project visibility, increased their confidence in disseminating and being experts of their work, increased their value and influence, and supported the advancement of women and other underrepresented groups in their field, through their grant projects. Organizational impacts of the Connect Grants at RIT are less common than individual impacts, but are related to refining institutional structures and installing practices to promote representation and advancement of women faculty. Some grantees worked to transform their institutional environment by strengthening community and raising internal awareness of their work, and also created new learning and leadership opportunities which helped to modify institutional policies, practices, and procedures

(b) Created the Connectivity Series* program with 189 professional development events offered since the program’s inception in 2013. Offerings include interactive sessions focused on unconscious bias education, creating an inclusive academic environment, and the recruitment, retention, and advancement of a diverse faculty. The Connectivity Series has reached a total of 1086 unique individuals (628 women and 458 men). The tenured or pre-tenured (TT) faculty attendees represent 83% of women TT faculty and 47% of men TT faculty who were invited to participate in an event. The Connectivity Series is intentionally inclusive. All RIT faculty are typically invited to sessions as well as staff who work closely with students. On average, 94% reported that attending events was a valuable use of their time.

The Women of Color (WoC) and Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Connectivity Series’ events comprised about 34% (64/189) of all mapped Connectivity Series events to date. These events are led by faculty in each population and content for each series was developed based on quantitative and qualitative research performed by RIT faculty.

(c) Established mentor access initiatives and the faculty-driven creation of mentoring clusters through Mentoring Workshops*.  Piloted multi-level Women Leadership Development Program utilizing external and internal facilitators and experts as well as best practice benchmarking.  

(d) Address length-in-rank issue at the associate professor level through detailed data analysis. Developed a white paper and a supporting faculty-driven program called Promotion Package Preparation (P3 ) Group* which is a series of workshops created to address this long-standing issue. Over 100 faculty have participated in a P3 Workshop since 2016.


2) Recruit and Retain Top-Tier Faculty - Focus on Culture Change Efforts - Following Programs Institutionalized

To support faculty retention, we focused on culture change initiatives*. Through carefully crafted workshops, AdvanceRIT has led efforts which promote culture change towards a more inclusive and vibrant learning and work environment. This culture aligns with our university’s core values and strategic plan and will enable RIT to attract, retain, and advance top-tier faculty.  

2) Recruit and Retain Top-Tier Faculty

To date, AdvanceRIT has hosted 50 workshops on enhancing and improving campus culture including: unconscious bias education workshops, bystander awareness workshops using interactive theater, and ground rule discussions. Audiences have reached 850 unique participants (59% women) and have included campus leaders, members of RIT’s Academic Senate, promotion/tenure committees, staff, entire departments and colleges, senior design coaches/sponsors, undergraduate and graduate students, department chairs, and faculty.

Faculty retention efforts have resulted in the development of Connectivity Series for Women of Color, the successful P&T SMARTS* program designed for faculty of color with broad offerings to all faculty, the recently launched allofus@RIT* organization which hosts events which engage thoughtful campus change agents, and the successful Connectivity Series for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Women Faculty* which has been expanded to include offerings for all members of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

3) Policies, Practices, Structures, and Supporting Research

The project team worked closely with key administrative partners on faculty evaluation, compensation, and data analysis.  The team developed an important knowledge base of topics through the creation of tip sheets and white papers reflecting relevant research, benchmarking, and faculty data.

Notable policy changes include: the complete rewrite of RIT’s tenure policy E05.0 which incorporates an automatic tenure-extension provision; conducting benchmarking research which informed expansion in 2015 of the parental leave benefits to all university members; conducting research to inform campus dialogue concerning key topics while considering work-life integration.

4) Institutional Collaboration

Several elements related to AdvanceRIT are integrated within the university’s newest Strategic Plan.  The team engaged in productive collaborations resulting in new institutional practices, such as faculty exit interviews*; COACHE climate survey*; dual career program*, gender-equity salary study*; and NSF Indicator data*. The project has consistently worked towards increased transparency regarding resource allocation through the creation of the Resource Allocation Committee*.