University to Transform Environment for
Women Faculty Members:
Maryland receives $3.2M NSF-ADVANCE Grant
College of Education Faculty Member KerryAnn O'Meara, Co-PI
While UM has made significant progress in hiring women into tenure-track positions, retention, particularly among women in STEM fields, is still a problem. There is a drop in retention rates of women faculty at two critical points in their academic careers: the first being the tenure decision year, promoting from assistant to associate professor, and again with the decision to promote from associate to full professor. Often times, women faculty members leave the University at these critical junctures because they do not feel that their department, college or university is invested in their professional growth and ability to have a satisfying work-life balance.
The University of Maryland, with a grant from the National Science Foundation ADVANCE, is seeking to bridge this retention gap by transforming current academic environments to be better supportive of women faculty.
Research from Associate Professor in Higher Education and co-principal investigator KerryAnn O'Meara, Ph.D. and her colleagues suggests that women faculty are more likely to be retained when their academic environments (at the department, college and institutional levels) support their professional growth, value their contributions and invest in their success. This research provided the conceptual framework for the NSF-ADVANCE grant.
O'Meara asserts, "Academic environments that act as generative, genuine incubators for professional growth are also places that retain faculty and see them more satisfied, committed to their institutions and performing at the highest levels. This is what we hope to achieve at Maryland." Here professional growth is defined as opportunities for learning, to assume agency in one’s career, to extend networks and professional relationships and have scholarly commitments supported (O’Meara, Terosky, & Neumann, 2008).
Through active participation of all UM leaders and faculty, the grant will work to change the cultures, structures, policies and practices of the academic environments to be more inclusive in their support of excellence. Key project activities include having senior women mentor junior women in colleges and departments, a Senior STEM women’s council, peer to peer learning communities, interdisciplinary seed grants, women’s leadership training, a dashboard project, and balance of work and family initiatives. While two of the eight activities support STEM women specifically, the other eight will be extended for women in every college and across campus through in-kind support from UM.
The grant, "Investing in a Culture of Institutional Excellence (ICIE)," is a collaboration with faculty from the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences (CMNS) and the A. James Clark School of Engineering. Lead principal investigator of the ICIE grant is Nariman Farvardin, Ph.D., Provost, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Co-principal investigators with Dr. O'Meara are Darryll J. Pines, Ph.D., Professor and Dean of the Clark School and Avis Cohen, Ph.D., Professor of Biology from the CMNS. The five-year, NSF-ADVANCE grant was awarded October 1, 2010.
O’Meara, K., Terosky, A.L. and Neumann, A. (2008). Faculty Careers and Work Lives: A Professional Growth Perspective. ASHE Higher Education Report, 34 (3). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.