(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University chemistry professor Hala Schepmann will co-direct a five-year, $999,899 National Science Foundation project to support mid-career women faculty members nationwide in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
The project – Advancing STEM Careers by Empowering Network Development (ASCEND) – will focus in two directions. It will help individual faculty members advance their careers and also address systemic issues that prevent mid-career women from achieving full professorships and leadership positions in their disciplines and institutions.
Schepmann and co-directors from Willamette University, Western Oregon University and Gonzaga University in the Northwest; John Carroll University and University of Detroit Mercy in the Midwest; and Claflin University, Furman University and the Citadel in the Southeast will lead the project that will include as many as 75 participants. Colleges and universities in the three regions will collaborate to provide educational opportunities, training resources and professional support.
The NSF grant to support the project began this month and will run through September of 2024.
“The ASCEND project aims to both develop women leaders among faculty and enable university administrators to remove systemic and institution-specific barriers to support the advancement of a diverse STEM faculty,” Schepmann said. “Professional development trainings will focus on self-advocacy, collaboration, leadership, change implementation, conflict resolution and negotiation.”
The grant is part of the NSF’s ADVANCE program, which is intended to increase the representation and advancement of women faculty members in STEM fields. It is part of the NSF’s strategy to broaden participation in the STEM workforce. The NSF has invested more than $270 million in ADVANCE projects at over 100 institutions nationwide since 2001.
The ASCEND project that Schepmann is co-directing is one of two prestigious NSF grants announced this fall that have SOU faculty members in leadership roles. A two-year, $299,000 NSF grant to develop the “computational thinking” skills of kindergarten-through-fifth-grade students is being led by Eva Skuratowicz, an adjunct professor of sociology and anthropology, and director of the SOU Research Center (SOURCE).
“I couldn’t be more pleased that Dr. Schepmann received this grant,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This award acknowledges Hala’s substantial commitment to increasing the advancement of women in science, and paves the way for SOU to continue to make a significant contribution to this important work.”
Co-directors of the ASCEND project will lead the creation of peer mentoring networks in each of the project’s three regions. Members of the networks will meet online each month and in-person once per year to collectively identify barriers to their professional advancement and strategies to address them.
Each regional network will be made up of one administrator “alliance” made up of four or five academic leaders and five faculty “alliances,” each aligned with a STEM-specific academic discipline and made up of four or five members.
“In collaboration with faculty, administrators will strategically design and implement comprehensive campus-specific change plans that reduce barriers encountered by women in STEM fields, create more equitable communities and foster the retention and advancement of a diverse STEM faculty population,” the project’s written summary says.
The project is intended to establish a “critical mass” of change and precipitate reforms that benefit women in STEM fields throughout U.S. higher education.
More information is available on the ASCEND program website.