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Marshall University faculty members get stimulus grant

Aug. 27, 2009 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- A group of faculty members at Marshall University has been awarded $750,000 by the National Science Foundation to continue an initiative aimed at increasing the number of women teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Dr. Marcia A. Harrison, professor of biological sciences and the principal investigator on the grant, will use the funds to work on recruitment, retention and policy efforts undertaken by the university during the past three years. The grant was made possible through the federal stimulus package.

The Marshall University ADVANCE program was established in 2006 with a $1.2 million grant awarded through NSF's Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers (ADVANCE) program. The new funding will extend the program for two years.

Harrison's co-investigators include Dr. Beverly C. Delidow, associate professor of biochemistry and microbiology; Patricia Y. Logan, associate professor of information technology and engineering; Elizabeth E. Murray, associate professor of integrated science and technology; and Judith A. Silver, professor of mathematics.

During the initial phase of the project, Harrison and her colleagues worked with teams of faculty, staff and administrators to analyze and review existing barriers to the success of female STEM faculty, and to develop new programs and policies to increase the representation and advancement of women.

"The ADVANCE program nationally is quite competitive, so this extension demonstrates that NSF believes what we are doing here at Marshall is working," Harrison said. "We now plan to turn our attention to sustaining our efforts long term by ensuring continued growth and institutionalization of the program."

The National Science Foundation says women continue to be significantly underrepresented in almost all science and engineering fields. Although 41 percent of all faculty members at Marshall are women, only 27 percent of STEM faculty members are female.

Harrison said increasing the number of female faculty members in science and technology fields provides much-needed role models for West Virginia's young, female students and an additional economic development stimulus.

"Our programs help female faculty members balance and integrate their teaching and service commitments, while building competitive research programs," said Harrison. "This additional research activity has the potential to increase external funding, providing the region and state with economic development advantages."

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