Success Stories

NSF grant helps women in science

Shaily Menon, left, and Kathleen Underwood

To advance careers of women faculty members in the science and engineering fields, Grand Valley has received a $500,000, two-year grant from the National Science Foundation ADVANCE Program, in partnership with The University of Michigan.

The goal of the ADVANCE program is to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce.

Grand Valley’s grant was co-authored by Shaily Menon, associate professor of biology, and Kathleen Underwood, associate professor of history and coordinator of Women and Gender Studies. The goals of the grant are to address aspects of recruitment, retention, professional development, and climate in the sciences and engineering.

While the grant is targeted at professors, students will also see benefits. Menon chairs the biology department and teaches some technical courses using geographic information systems and computer modeling. “I know it makes a difference for women students to see a woman teaching a class that deals with technology,” she said. “It shows them a role model and opens up career possibilities in fields that they might not have considered before.”

Fred Antczak, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said because the grant promotes diversity in the workplace, education at Grand Valley will be enhanced.

“Diversity makes us all deal with the variety of perspectives that make up the world we live in, and the world ahead,” he said.

The NSF grant will also allow UM graduate and post-doctoral students to teach at Grand Valley. “It’s a collaborative pipeline,” Menon said. “They will gain valuable experience at a university committed to undergraduate teaching and a liberal arts and science education.”

Underwood said that portion of the grant could be key to some women, as the sciences remain a male-dominated field. According to NSF, women constitute less than 21 percent of the science and engineering faculty at four-year universities.

“For women PhDs at risk of giving up on an academic career, it offers an alternative model of a primarily undergraduate university, which might be more attractive,” Underwood said.

Wendy Wenner, dean of the College of Interdisciplinary Studies, said receiving the competitive grant acknowledges the strength of Grand Valley’s science, engineering and Women and Gender Studies programs and the excellence of its faculty.

“We are pleased that UM and NSF recognize our ability to provide mentoring and support for new female faculty and are enthusiastic about partnering to change academic culture to more stongly support and develop women in their academic careers,” she said.

by Michele Coffill

This story was filed with the tags: Diversity, Engineering, First-Rate Faculty, Grants, Science