Each year, Iowa State awards up to $50,000 in funding from the Women’s and Diversity Grants Program to support initiatives that enrich the experiences of women and diverse faculty, staff, and students on campus. Two grant proposals selected this year were prompted and supported by materials science and engineering professor Kristen Constant, along with several colleagues from across the university.
Constant’s proposals have one thing in common—they both seek to promote and instill many of the goals of ISU ADVANCE, a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded initiative to create a more diverse workforce by advancing women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
ADVANCE strives to improve the working environment by transforming policies and practices by identifying cultures, practices, and structures that enhance or hinder the careers of women faculty in STEM fields.
“Both grants address the sustainability of ADVANCE,” explained Constant. “We want to make sure all the great progress made over the years is carried on.”
One of the main initiatives of ADVANCE is recruiting women and underrepresented minorities. To tackle the issue Constant, Leslie Hogben, professor of mathematics, and Craig Ogilvie, professor of physics and astronomy, created an innovative program called the Carver Visiting Scholars Series.
Constant says past faculty searches have often yielded a narrow pool of applicants. The Carver Series aims to broaden that pool by inviting promising, underrepresented scientists—most likely post doctorate or graduate students—to come to campus, give a presentation, and interact with their peers. These opportunities help the university develop collaborations with a diverse set of individuals who are interested in employment at Iowa State.
“We’ve long believed that if you get researchers here to see our campus and meet our people, Iowa State will be a lot more viable as a potential employment opportunity than if they just read about the position and atmosphere on a piece of paper,” Constant said.
ADVANCE also identified a need to address retention and promotion concerns. One area was work-life management, which can become an increasingly stressful issue when caring for children. After the program discovered that mentoring is a key contributor in promoting successful careers for women, it became a focus for the group as well.
Constant’s solution, with considerable contributions from Susan Lamont, distinguished professor of animal science, and Lisa Larson, professor of psychology, is to hold two workshops on campus to educate faculty and staff about these issues.
The workshops scheduled for September 27, 2012, will encompass interactive activities for faculty and staff. In the first workshop, leaders will focus on developing a mentoring program from both the mentor’s and the mentee’s perspective, so everyone gets the most out of the opportunity. The second workshop will teach participants how to improve work-life effectiveness and management issues.
“To further our efforts, we are also going to have speakers meet with various academic administrators during lunch to talk about these issues and how university administrators can help promote healthy work-life balance and relationships to facilitate mentoring,” said Constant.
The grant funding awarded to Constant and her colleagues will go toward putting on the workshops, as well as travel fees and hospitality for both the workshop leaders and Carver Visiting Scholars. In addition to the funds received through the Women’s and Diversity Grants Program, the College of Engineering along and the graduate college have also committed support for the program.
With the potential for these programs to impact the entire university community, Constant says having multiple colleges involved in creating them will be important for their success. “Although our programs are focused on issues specifically related to women, they are in no way exclusive,” she says. “These really aggressive programs are an investment and benefit to the institution as a whole, and will benefit everyone across campus.”