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Women STEM faculty chosen for ADVANCE program

Dr. Rosie RosellThree women faculty from the University of St. Thomas have been selected to participate in the National Science Foundation ADVANCE project “Advancing the Careers of Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics at Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions through Professional Networks” (ASAP). The faculty are Dr. Maia Larios-Sanz, associate professor of biology, Dr. Birgit Mellis, assistant professor of physics, and Dr. Rosemarie Rosell, professor and chair of biology.

This five-year, $600,000 project, based out of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., involves the creation of a mentoring network comprised of 70 women faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from undergraduate schools nationwide.

Rosell said she and the others are honored to be accepted in the program. “We’re excited about getting to network with other women scientists in our fields,” Rosell said.

She said the program allows senior faculty to mentor those new in the sciences, and participants will also be able to network with faculty in their same field and career level.

Dr. Maia Larios-SanzLarios-Sanz said science today is about collaboration, and networking is important.

“That’s an important part of our development as scientists and that directly impacts our success,” Larios-Sanz said. “If we can pass that on to our students, especially female students, that’s great.”

The network will provide faculty peer-mentorship and cross-disciplinary support to help women faculty in STEM fields succeed and advance in their careers.  Ultimately, the network is expected to encourage the entry of more women into STEM disciplines. By reducing the isolation of the participants, and building leadership skills, the project will positively influence the 70 participants who potentially may influence thousands of undergraduates at the participating institutions. 

Each UST faculty member belongs to one of 14 groups of five women across the country. Mellis said the program is a unique opportunity, because in her field of physics, especially, there are so few women faculty.

“I hope to encourage more students to go into physics and engineering,” Mellis said.

Dr. Mellis BirgitThe project is an academic study, so the results will uncover some of the reasons for the historic underrepresentation of women in math-, science-, and engineering-based disciplines and will illustrate institutional practices that support women in STEM disciplines.  The project also is expected to increase research opportunities for the participants, secure more recognition for their work, help advance their careers, and improve their student mentoring capabilities.

In addition to the University of St. Thomas, the higher-education network involves faculty from Gonzaga University, Willamette University (Salem, Ore.), Western Oregon University, Southern Oregon University, Maryville University (St. Louis), Butler University (Indianapolis), Hope College (Holland, Mich.), University of Detroit Mercy, John Carroll University (Cleveland), University of Scranton (New York) and Loyola University Maryland.

An advisory board consisting of women leaders from the national organizations involved in the project – including the Council on Undergraduate Research, the Association of American Colleges and Universities and Project Kaleidoscope – will help develop and maintain the network structure.