* Purdue Discovery Learning Center

September 17, 2008

Goal: Institutional transformation

NSF picks Purdue to lead effort to attract women to STEM disciplines, agriculture

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue is launching a national model program to increase the number and diversity of successful women faculty members in the STEM disciplines - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - as well as agriculture.

A National Science Foundation grant of more than $3.92 million will support the research and programming for "institutional transformation" and create the Purdue Center for Faculty Success. The center will provide targeted research, programs and university-level coordination to not only attract more women, but also to help them succeed. What is learned will be shared with other institutions across the nation.

Purdue President France A. Córdova, said, "This effort will provide the role models to encourage more young women to enter these fields and succeed. It is essential that more of our domestic students prepare for and enter STEM disciplines and agriculture. These fields are key to global competitiveness."

Jessie DeAro, program director for ADVANCE at NSF, said: "We expect the Purdue ADVANCE Institutional Transformation project to become a national model for increasing the participation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers. The ADVANCE program was particularly impressed with the proposed efforts to focus on increasing the participation of underrepresented minority women."

The report by the NSF panel that reviewed the grant application stated: "The panel agreed that the proposal clearly established that Purdue had the institutional readiness and commitment for large-scale transformation. ... The strong administrative support, sustainability plans, leadership mentoring and diversity forums are all elements of the proposal that received positive remarks from the panel."

Córdova is the principal investigator for the five-year grant. Other principal investigators are Alice Pawley, assistant professor of engineering education; Assistant Provost Dorothy Reed; and Valentine Moghadam, director of women's studies. Christie L. Sahley, an associate dean in the College of Science, will lead the center's creation, help implement proposed programs and oversee a leadership team to manage it. The new center will be housed in the Discovery Learning Center at Discovery Park.

"Our vision is to increase women faculty members through improving the diversity of faculty candidates, enhancing the role of Purdue's ethnic cultural centers in faculty support, mentoring and adopting best practices," Sahley said. "We will provide leadership mentoring for associate and full professors, develop diversity toolkits, and initiate diversity catalyst and leadership workshops."

Sahley said the center will improve the climate for women faculty members in these fields and integrate those practices across the university.

The experiences of women faculty members in STEM disciplines, particularly minority women, will be examined, Pawley said. Purdue will identify barriers in areas such as career advancement and retention and develop new insight and strategies to overcome those barriers.

"Our institutional ethnography will explore the lived experiences of faculty women and men, particularly focusing on women faculty of color, who are navigating Purdue's policies and procedures while working on succeeding in STEM faculty positions," Pawley said. "The result of this research will help Purdue understand its own context better and provide a model for universities across the country to apply social science methods to better support institutional change on behalf of their faculty. Once we understand better how to help diverse faculty succeed at Purdue, we can integrate this research directly into our programs and their rigorous evaluation, which then will allow us to improve these programs for future iterations."

Klod Kokini, an associate dean in the College of Engineering and a member of the center's leadership team, indicated that the center also will build on previous efforts at Purdue to improve the climate by engaging all faculty and staff in transforming the institution. As a result, the ADVANCE program and center will positively impact not only the STEM disciplines, but also the entire campus, he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women make up 45 percent of the U.S. work force. In business and industry, however, they are employed in only 12 percent of the science and engineering positions and 20 percent of the information technology positions.

At research universities in the United States, women have made progress but are still among the underrepresented, Kokini said. At Purdue, women make up 15 percent of the faculty in STEM disciplines and women minorities make up 1 percent.

Writer: Clyde Hughes, (765) 494-2073,

Sources: France A. Córdova,

Christie L. Sahley, (765) 494-0127,

Alice Pawley, (765) 496-1209,

Klod Kokini, (765) 494-5349,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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