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UMass Amherst awarded $3m to support faculty of color in STEM

The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Massachusetts Amherst a five-year, $3 million grant to develop resources and relationships to foster equity for women and men faculty of color in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

The ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant is believed to be the largest social science-led interdisciplinary grant ever awarded to UMass Amherst, according to a statement from the school.

Planning for the ADVANCE project began four years ago with faculty from the school’s four STEM colleges. The project is being led by principal investigator Enobong (Anna) Branch, a professor of sociology, an associate chancellor for equity and inclusion, and the campus’s chief diversity officer.

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“We’re eager to move from planning to implementation,” Branch said. “We’re taking steps to ensure that we build sustainable structures that scaffold equity and inclusion into our faculty advancement culture.”

The team of men and women, including four women of color, reviewed literature, collected pilot data, and developed hypotheses that supported the idea that collaboration will advance equity for all women faculty and for men faculty of color, Branch said in the statement.

The project will center its research and programming on three elements: encouraging research collaboration, creating an inclusive community through mentoring, and promoting shared decision-making and governance at the department level, the statement read.

Laurel Smith-Doerr, a sociology professor at the school, said “research is what makes or breaks a faculty career in the sciences.” She said “research shows that shared decision-making is more conducive than a top-down management model for encouraging collaboration.”

A website and new staff hiring is underway, said Doerr, who is the director of the campus’s Institute for Social Science Research. Some initial programming and organizational activities will also unfold during the spring semester, she said.

The university provost’s office is helping the project by developing training for department leadership in mentoring and best practices, so that the project meets one of its many goals of supplying new research on gender equity in STEM academics.

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“We owe special thanks to the team of ADVANCE investigators who worked incredibly hard for several years to plan this project and secure the grant,” Provost John McCarthy said. “Faculty leadership generated the innovative research ideas that will inform ADVANCE, and the engagement of members of the broader community and academic leadership will be key to its success.”


Katie Camero can be reached at katie.camero@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @camerokt_