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Loyola receives NSF funding to help build mentoring network for women science faculty nationwide

| By Nick Alexopulos

As part of a collaborative grant led by Gonzaga University, Loyola University Maryland has received a sub award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to work with other universities across the country to develop a mentoring network for women professors in the sciences at predominantly undergraduate institutions.

Loyola is one of a dozen schools participating in the project as part of the NSF’s ADVANCE program. Over the next five years, the grant project will connect women faculty in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, where women are often underrepresented in all stages of their careers.

“I firmly believe that our country needs women in the sciences, and our students are influenced by who they see in the front of the classroom,” said Roberta Sabin, Ph.D., professor of computer science at Loyola and one of four co-principal investigators involved in the ADVANCE program. “This effort is a testament to the fact that the National Science Foundation recognizes the severe problem of attracting and keeping women in the sciences, and I’m honored Loyola has an opportunity to be a part of it.”

Sabin is on the ADVANCE leadership committee, led by Gonzaga, that is currently planning how networking and mentoring connections will be forged and sustained; at present, the committee is considering organized electronic communication ranging from email to a new social network exclusively for STEM faculty. Much of the funding will be used for travel, which will allow women faculty in the program to meet face-to-face at larger meetings, conferences, and events.

Physics professor Mary Lowe, Ph.D., will take the lead in connecting female science faculty at Loyola. She’ll also oversee the creation of early-, mid-, and late-career cohorts of physics, computer science, and engineering faculty for the ADVANCE grant.

“We hope our role in this program attracts more women STEM faculty to Loyola,” said Sabin. Coincidentally, Gonzaga, Loyola, and three other schools spearheading the implementation of the ADVANCE program are Jesuit institutions.

Sabin added that Loyola is a very hospitable environment for women in the sciences. In fall 2011, Loyola welcomed two tenure-track women faculty members, one each in computer science and engineering, whose positions are supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation’s Clare Boothe Luce Program.

All told, Sabin, Lowe, and the rest of the ADVANCE grant leadership team anticipate they’ll provide networking and mentoring opportunities for 70 STEM faculty with the potential to reach more than 25,000 female undergraduate students at the 12 participating institutions.

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