Rutgers University–New Brunswick announces a new multi-year initiative, The Big Ten Academic Alliance Summit Series on Advancing Women in STEM, designed to improve the recruitment and retention of women faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate and undergraduate students in STEM, with a special focus on increasing the representation of women of color. Through a partnership among Rutgers University, the Big Ten Academic Alliance, and Big Ten Universities, the Series will establish an innovative collaborative platform to create new pathways for women at our institutions. The Summit convenes leaders from Big Ten Universities at annual Summits over a period of three years, to share and develop best practices for improving the status of women in STEM across the large footprint of Big Ten schools.
Despite considerable attention to and investment in addressing the deficits of gender and racial diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics over the last decades, the United States continues to face a crisis in the talent pool. The National Science Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academy of Sciences continue to raise alarms about the persisting lack of women and diversity in the STEM workforce. The proportion of women in fields such as computer science, mathematics, engineering, technology, and physics remain well below 50 percent, and in 2015 women held only 24 percent of all STEM jobs. The low representation and slow progress in broadening participation have exacerbated the nation’s shortage of individuals planning STEM careers and are a detriment to innovation through diversity. There is also societal benefit in improving equity of access to high-quality jobs, which include many STEM jobs.
In higher education, the lack of gender diversity plays out at the undergraduate level as well as graduate and post-doctoral education and in the academic faculty ranks. While advances have been made, it is still the case that more women than men, especially women of color, do not choose STEM majors, do not complete STEM majors or graduate degrees, and remain disproportionally low in the faculty ranks in select fields. Recruiting and retaining a diverse group of women within higher education is pivotal to closing the talent-pool gap both within and outside academia.
The Big Ten Academic Alliance Summit Series offers a unique opportunity to bring together the diverse experiences and expertise of Alliance members in an ongoing and collaborative effort to address this national crisis. The aim is to discern institutional strengths and challenges, collaborate on scalable and transferrable practices, and establish sustainable partnerships across the Universities for continued innovation and collaboration. The Summit will support existing efforts at participating universities while spearheading new ones through a fresh application of national best practices and new cross-institutional synergies across the Big Ten Academic Alliance. The aim is to build a community of practice for expanding the STEM pathway for women and to share lessons learned both within and beyond the Big Ten about designing and evaluating innovative and promising practices.
The first summit will take place at Douglass Residential College, the women’s college at Rutgers-New Brunswick, and will focus on the recruitment and retention of undergraduates and women in STEM fields, with a particular focus on women of color. Douglass has a historic strength in expanding the representation of undergraduate women in science, engineering, and technology through its Douglass Project for Rutgers Women in STEM. Founded in 1986, the Douglass Project serves thousands of students each year in programs for research, living-learning communities for women in computer science, engineering, and medicine, a STEM-only women’s residence hall, and corporate and alumnae mentoring.
The undergraduate Summit activities include formal talks offered by leading national experts on diversifying the STEM talent pool, cross-institution working group sessions, networking, reflections of undergraduate students on their pathway, and discussion of best practices at each participating school. The content focuses on three themes: 1. Best practices for and new research on the recruitment and retention of undergraduate women in STEM fields; 2. Best practices for and new research on the recruitment and retention of undergraduate women of color; and 3. Best practices in program goal setting and evaluation.
Sponsors for the Summit are the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Rutgers University—New Brunswick, Office of the Chancellor, Rutgers University Office of Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University School of Engineering, and Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
Dr. Mack’s holistic approach to STEM reform is grounded in a strategic vision that foregrounds inclusion as an immutable factor for achieving excellence in undergraduate STEM education. She also completed a brief stint as Executive Secretary for the NSF Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering, which is the Congressionally mandated advisory body that supports efforts related to broadening the participation of underrepresented groups in the STEM disciplines.
Linda Suskie is an internationally recognized consultant, writer, speaker, and educator on a broad variety of higher education assessment and accreditation topics. Her latest book is Five Dimensions of Quality: A Common Sense Guide to Accreditation and Accountability, with a foreword by Stan Ikenberry. Her previous book, Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, is one of the top-selling books on assessment in higher education.
Dr. Talitha Washington is a tenured Associate Professor of Mathematics at Howard University. She is currently a Program Officer at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Undergraduate Education. She is interested in the applications of differential equations to problems in biology and engineering, as well as the development of nonstandard finite difference schemes to numerically solve dynamical systems.
Vicki Magley is a Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Connecticut. The main focus of her research combines both organizational and feminist perspectives in the study of workplace sexual harassment and incivility. Most recently, she was one of the research experts on the National Academies of Sciences consensus study on sexual harassment in academia.
Dr. Pérez is Senior Vice President for Organizational Culture, Inclusion and Equity at Simmons University. Prior to joining Simmons University, Dr. Pérez was the chief evaluation and learning officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. For twenty years, Dr. Pérez worked in philanthropy to strengthen measurement, evaluation and learning, design the structures and processes to support the integration of measurement and evaluation processes with program design, adaptive management and continuous learning.