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Office of Research & Economic Development

UNL wins ADVANCE grant

UNL will announce today that it has received a $3.8 million National Science Foundation grant to help the university recruit, promote and retain female faculty in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

A grant celebration will be held at 11:30 a.m. at the Van Brunt Visitors Center, 313 N. 13th St.

At UNL, women comprise less than 20 percent of faculty in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Nationally, NSF reports that women comprise 29 percent of science and engineering faculty at four-year colleges and universities. The five-year grant will enable UNL to create new programs to recruit and support women faculty through each stage of their career. The grant is from NSF's ADVANCE program, which aims to increase participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers.

The goal is to ensure that the pools of applicants for jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics departments match or exceed the percentage of women who receive doctoral degrees in those fields, said Mary Anne Holmes, professor of geosciences and program director for the ADVANCE-Nebraska office being set up through the grant.

“We want the best faculty we can get and the way we’re doing business now is not attracting the widest applicant pool,” Holmes said.

ADVANCE-Nebraska will be a clearinghouse for job applicants to learn about UNL’s existing family friendly policies and for department chairs to get information about best hiring practices. Holmes said one of the office’s key roles will be facilitating dual-career hires.

“When a department wants to hire a top candidate, it has to move quickly because they are probably being recruited by other schools. We don’t want to lose good candidates because we couldn’t find a place for his or her spouse,” said Barbara Couture, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, who will oversee the ADVANCE-Nebraska program.

The grant funds recruitment activities such as sending UNL faculty to national conferences to search for talented candidates, inviting top female researchers to give presentations at UNL and bringing recruits to campus for pre-interview visits. In addition to outreach programs, a committee of five faculty members will gather and disseminate information on best recruitment practices, Couture said.

“Faculty recruitment is extremely competitive. The grant will allow us to build relationships with the most talented people in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields around the nation. We'll have the opportunity to show them that UNL provides the support they need to succeed in their careers,” Chancellor Harvey Perlman said.

Current as well as new faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics will benefit from additional professional development opportunities and informal mentoring workshops where high-level female faculty will discuss their paths to success. Ideas for these activities, which will be open to all faculty, were generated through surveys and forums in which more than 100 faculty participated, Holmes said.

This effort to encourage a more diverse faculty will help enhance UNL's strong reputation in academics as well as research, Couture said. "Encouraging more diversity definitely will benefit our students. A great team of researchers made this grant possible and we're very excited about this opportunity."

Besides Couture and Holmes, a team of UNL faculty and administrators will work together to ensure the Nebraska-ADVANCE program opportunities are incorporated campuswide.

Throughout the grant, Assistant Professor of Sociology Christina Falci and her colleagues will conduct cutting-edge research to determine whether ADVANCE programs affect the professional and social networks of female faculty in UNL’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics departments and enhance academic success.

Cultivating a world-class and broadly inclusive science and engineering workforce for the nation is one of NSF's goals. Since its inception in 2001, ADVANCE program grants have been successful at 30 other major universities, including Arizona, Colorado, Cornell, Iowa State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

“UNL is in good company. This is one way we can do our part to help develop a more diverse workforce in the science and engineering fields and attract the best, most talented people to UNL,” said Prem Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development.