$3.3M grant to fund UM program aimed at increasing female faculty

Posted Oct. 11, 2010, at 7:39 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — A $3.3 million National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant will establish the Rising Tide Center at the University of Maine and support an initiative throughout the University of Maine System to increase the number of female faculty members in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM; and social-behavioral sciences.

The five-year grant will allow staff at the new center to define the practices that attract and support the retention of female faculty, facilitate promotion through the academic ranks to administrative positions, and provide professional satisfaction, according to a UMaine press release issued Sunday.

UMaine has 114 female faculty members teaching in STEM and social-behavioral fields compared with 284 male faculty members in those fields, according to information in the press release. That is below the national average.

“This grant will help us build on our commitment to providing greater opportunity for women scholars in these critical disciplines,” said Susan Hunter, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at UMaine. The university “has a proud history upon which we can build to become a model institution for supporting female faculty members across the institution. This initiative will promote opportunity, enhance diversity and provide more of the role models who will help show our female students the pathways to success in STEM and social-behavioral science fields.”

The goal of the NSF’s ADVANCE program is to encourage the presentation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse and sustainable U.S. science and engineering work force, according to information on a website about the program.

Since 2001, the NSF has invested more than $130 million to support ADVANCE projects at more than 100 institutions of higher learning and STEM-related nonprofit organizations across the country, the press release said.

Rising Tide is the latest in a series of UMaine initiatives since 1992 to attempt to establish efforts to increase the percentage of women faculty members, decrease discrepancies in salary between male and female faculty and support the advancement of women through the academic pipeline.

In 2009, Hunter created the Advancement Initiative Council, or AIC, to better align such efforts, according to the press release.

“We have several effective pieces in place, and we have an academic community that sees significant value in taking a proactive approach to enhancing opportunities for female faculty members,” Hunter said in the press release. “This grant will allow us to create an institutional structure that will support all those related efforts and help us work effectively toward our goals.”

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