September 14, 2010

Project Focused on Faculty Diversity in STEM Fields Enters Second Year

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Six regional universities work together on the IDEAL project.

Three professors in the College of Arts and Sciences spent a year working on a plan aimed at improving the climate for faculty diversity in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Daniela Calvetti, professor and chair of mathematics; Kathleen Kash, professor and chair of physics; and Daniel Scherson, Charles F. Mabery Professor of Research in Chemistry; were the inaugural members of the Institutions Developing Excellence in Academic Leadership (IDEAL) program. This week, they will hand over the reins to a new group of faculty leaders.

IDEAL is a three-year, nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to seed gender and underrepresented minority equity and institutional transformation in the areas of science and engineering awarded to Lynn Singer, deputy provost and vice president for academic affairs. Case Western Reserve leads a partnership with five regional public universities: Bowling Green State University, Cleveland State University, Kent State University, University of Akron and the University of Toledo.

Diana Bilimoria, professor of Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve, said each participant was selected for a reason. “They were chosen by their peers. The program specifically tries to develop emerging leaders and faculty who are respected in their discipline and in the campus community, and who are invested in improving the campus climate,” she said.

As far as the overall IDEAL project, IDEAL Project Director Amanda Shaffer said that it is “particularly innovative to have six universities trying to seed change simultaneously as part of a learning community.” All of the participants met with coaches and exchanged information on best practices across schools.

The Case Western Reserve IDEAL project will focus on a different academic area each year.  The next group of change leaders will represent the Case School of Engineering and the Weatherhead School of Management. The following year, faculty from the School of Medicine will be chosen.

Calvetti, Kash and Scherson’s project focused on faculty career development. They proposed examining institutional mechanisms to address the needs of pre-tenure and post-promotion faculty in several departments within the College of Arts and Sciences. Their proposal calls for reviewing best practices, hosting ongoing meetings, providing recommendations and preparing progress reports.

“The goals were provided in a broad sense but we had to decide what to focus on,” Scherson explained.

Singer said the group has made significant strides so far. “We were surprised at how much they learned and were able to do in such a short amount of time.”

Shaffer said the group is clearly committed to the project’s success. “They’ve spent an entire year investing in something they think will be impactful,” Shaffer said.

Although the current change leaders are all College of Arts and Sciences faculty, this was the first time they worked together on this type of project. Calvetti described the experience as “one of the most effective and rewarding aspects of IDEAL.”  

Calvetti, Kash and Scherson will report their recommendations during Friday’s IDEAL Plenary Conference. The meeting, which is being held at the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations, is an opportunity for all of the IDEAL universities to provide an update on their Year One projects. The meeting also is an opportunity to introduce the new change leaders. In addition to the faculty participants, university presidents, provosts and diversity officers are scheduled to attend.

Kash said the current change leaders are optimistic about the next phase of IDEAL. “Part of our charge is to share information with the new change leaders. We’re all curious to know how the policy will be implemented and if it will work,” she said.

Posted by: David Wilson, September 14, 2010 11:14 AM | News Topics: Case School of Engineering

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