By David Simpson

Old Dominion University has received a three-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation that will boost efforts to address the underrepresentation of women in science and engineering faculty positions at ODU, Provost Austin O. Agho announced on July 12.

The ADVANCE Adaptation Grant project, "Re-envisioning Inclusive and Sustainable Excellence (RISE): Advancing Women in STEM at Old Dominion University,” is designed to:

  • Increase the recruitment, hiring, promotion and tenure of women STEM faculty, particularly women of color.
  • Improve the departmental climate to enhance inclusivity. 

“This award is good news for Old Dominion University and for our continuing efforts to hire, promote and retain a more diverse faculty,” said Agho, who is also vice president for academic affairs.

Gail Dodge, dean of the College of Sciences, said receiving an NSF ADVANCE grant is exciting for ODU.

“I am looking forward to working with the ADVANCE team to take concrete steps to improve our recruiting and retention of women faculty in STEM,” she said. “Implementing proven strategies to ensure a welcoming and inclusive climate is a key part of this grant.”

The NSF and ODU share a commitment to increasing the representation of women in academic science and engineering careers, said Kenneth Fridley, dean of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology. 

“The ADVANCE grant awarded to ODU will accelerate our efforts to increase the representation of women in engineering and science faculty positions at ODU and have our faculty fully reflect the communities we serve,” he said. “The Batten College of Engineering and Technology is committed to achieving the goals of the grant and creating an academic culture that fully supports women, particularly women of color faculty.”

Agho is the principal investigator for the grant, which begins Aug. 1. Co-PIs are Annette Finley-Croswhite, professor of history and director of the Center for Faculty Development; Shanda Jenkins, faculty diversity and retention coordinator; Vukica Jovanovic, professor and chair, engineering technology; and Stacie Ringleb, professor, mechanical and aerospace engineering, and assistant dean of diversity, equity, inclusion and access for the Batten College.

A driving force behind the process, Finley-Croswhite said, was Mona Danner, chair of sociology and criminal justice, who is retiring this month.

"As a member of the University Women’s Caucus, I have been active in efforts to advance women at ODU during my entire career,” Danner said. “It is thrilling to win this award as it will further ODU’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The benefits of the RISE project will be tangible, Agho said, “especially to women, women of color and women with international backgrounds. The project will also enhance existing efforts at ODU to positively influence the trajectory of minoritized students in STEM fields by ensuring that these students have more opportunities to work with women STEM faculty from diverse backgrounds.”   

Agho praised Danner and Finley-Croswhite and the other co-PIs, as well as others involved with the grant: Kate Hawkins, vice provost for faculty affairs and strategic initiatives; Barbara Hargrave, professor, biological sciences; Khan Iftekharuddin, professor, Batten College; Joe Brobst, research assistant professor, and Joanna Garner, research professor, Center for Educational Partnerships; Karen Eck, assistant vice president for research, Jackie Stein, director of research development, and Stephen Landowne, senior grant development specialist, Office of Research; Stephanie Haskell, manager of sponsored programs – pre-award, ODU Research Foundation; Tyler Miller-Gordon, senior research associate for assessment, Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment; and Kristal Kinloch-Taylor, educational program developer, Center for Faculty Development. Holly Gaff, professor and chair, biological sciences, will replace Danner on the leadership team.

NSF ADVANCE Adaptation grants build on prior research and scholarly literature addressing gender, racial and ethnic disparities in higher education, Finley-Croswhite said. The ODU grant drew on research adapted from ADVANCE Adaptation projects at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville; Case-Western Reserve; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Kansas State University; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Irvine; and University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, as well as research from Columbia University.

“We can project that with this NSF ADVANCE grant, we will be better able to transform the campus into one that more strongly embraces a vibrant and diverse STEM faculty,” Finley-Croswhite said.