There was cause — and nearly $200,000 worth of reasons — for celebration on the MTSU campus Thursday, Oct. 30.
The university announced a two-year, $195,000 National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant to further the advancement of women in STEM education — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and potentially all female students and staff at MTSU.
The study, titled “A Catalyst to ADVANCE the Participation and Advancement of Women in Academics, STEM Careers at Middle Tennessee State University,” will focus on identifying barriers that affect recruitment, retention, participation and promotion of female STEM faculty at MTSU.
STEM faculty members come from both the College of Basic and Applied Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts.
“I’m certain this will be successful,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, who attended the event in the Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium in the new Science Building. “The teamwork across interdisciplinary areas of campus reflects our commitment in working together.”
Chemistry professor Judith Iriarte-Gross, one of the co-leaders of the effort, said this project has been years in coming to fruition.
“This tells us that MTSU is serious about women in STEM and we’re looking forward to seeing what the results will tell us,” said Iriarte-Gross, who is director of both the Women in STEM Center and the Expanding Your Horizons in Math and Science program for middle and high school girls.
Dr. Mark Byrnes, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said his affected departments include sociology and anthropology and political science.
“What this means is an opportunity to look real carefully at what we can do to improve conditions for women across campus, but especially in the STEM disciplines,” he said.
Dr. Jackie Eller, interim dean for the College of Graduate Studies and vice provost for research, said the effort to obtain the grant had been a labor of love.
“This is a grant for us, to help us change,” said Eller, a longtime sociology professor, adding that “being able to inventory will allow us to get to know where our needs are.”
College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer noted that few women in the college “have administrative roles. The ADVANCE grant opportunity allows us to figure out who we are as an institution and our role in higher education.”
The program is promoting the Twitter hashtag #mtsuadvance.
For more details regarding the ADVANCE project summary, visit www.mtsu.edu/wistem/ADVANCE.
For more information, call Iriarte-Gross at 615-904-8253.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)