ADVANCE @ CSU seeks to foster STEM faculty gender equity, cultivate campus partners


The ADVANCE @ CSU team was awarded a significant NSF grant to promote equity for STEM faculty in academic workplaces. Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography

The National Science Foundation has awarded an interdisciplinary Colorado State University team nearly $1 million for an ADVANCE Adaptation grant to enhance the retention and promotion of gender equity in STEM disciplines. The funding will allow CSU to leverage the best practices and high-performing programs from other campuses that have had success in improving gender equity in STEM academic professions and workplaces.

Cultivating campus collaborators

Agriculture Biology Professor Ruth Hufbauer, principal investigator for the ADVANCE grant proposal, said one of the critical pillars of success will be building a dedicated network of collaborators across the University, including colleges and department leadership, and individual faculty and staff members.

“Our goal is to partner with individual faculty members, department chairs and heads, CSU leadership and our STEM community to remove roadblocks so that women can equitably join, succeed, and lead in the STEM fields,” Hufbauer said.

Hufbauer said the ADVANCE @ CSU team will use the NSF funding for new support positions in the Inclusive Excellence and Equal Opportunity offices, as well as funding for faculty member and departmental leaders to support equity University-wide. The team also recently hired a program manager to help lead initiatives and set strategies to drive success.

ADVANCE @ CSU program manager named

Jen Dawrs
Jen Dawrs

Jen Dawrs will take on a new role as the ADVANCE @ CSU program manager. Dawrs joined CSU as a residence director in 2017 and has since supported multiple equity-based projects and programs, including co-development of anti-racist learning and action frameworks presented at the CSU Diversity Symposium and the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity.

Dawrs said that she was drawn to apply for the ADVANCE role because the program’s goals and values align with her professional commitment to a collaborative and sustainable approach to equity work.

“I appreciated how ADVANCE’s design employs an intersectional lens and seeks to understand and dismantle inequities on interpersonal, cultural, and structural levels,” said Dawrs. “ADVANCE @ CSU represents decades of collaborative work to support equity in STEM, and I am honored to have the opportunity to support these ongoing efforts in this next chapter.”

Four key areas of focus

CSU’s ADVANCE program initially will focus on supporting the following:

  • Equitable recruitment.
  • Retention of members of underrepresented groups.
  • Department leadership in their equity efforts.
  • Faculty and leadership to enact change in their own spheres of influence.

These initial areas of focus are supported by the NSF grant, but Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Sue James said that the work will extend university-wide as part of a broader initiative supported by the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President. The provost is supporting extending these programs to faculties and departments in all disciplines so the changes will occur across the institution, not just in STEM.

“Although the funding is focused on supporting and advancing faculty in STEM disciplines, it is important to engage non-faculty in the process and solicit their help,” said James. “There is sometimes a divide between staff and faculty and we’re trying not to widen that divide, but instead create an environment where we all support each other.”

James said that the end game is removing barriers for women in STEM academic professions across CSU, and creating sustainable culture change that improves work culture for all employees.

Dawrs agreed, saying that the program draws from deep wells of evidence-based practices and the knowledge and expertise of program collaborators working in all areas across higher education.

“I see ADVANCE @ CSU as an opportunity to connect and uplift community members who are already engaged in this work,” said Dawrs. “It will create unique opportunities for ongoing learning and transformation that will have far-reaching and sustained impacts on the CSU community more broadly.”

ADVANCE @ CSU grant proposal team

  • Principal investigator for NSF ADVANCE adaption grant: Ruth Hufbauer, professor, Department of Agricultural Biology and Director of the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology.
  • Co-principal investigators: Meena Balgopal, professor, Department of Biology; Gregg Dean, professor and department head, Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology; Emily Fischer, associate professor, Department of Atmospheric Science; and Laura Sample McMeeking, director, CSU STEM Center.
  • Senior personnel: Shannon Archibeque-Engle, associate vice president for Inclusive Excellence; Sue James vice provost for Faculty Affairs; and Heather Novak, director for Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness.

About the NSF ADVANCE program

The NSF ADVANCE program contributes to the National Science Foundation’s goal of a more diverse and capable science and engineering workforce. In this solicitation, the NSF ADVANCE program seeks to build on prior NSF ADVANCE work and other research and literature concerning gender, racial, and ethnic equity. The NSF ADVANCE program provides grants to enhance the systemic factors that support equity and inclusion and to mitigate the systemic factors that create inequities in the academic profession and workplaces. Since 2001, the NSF has invested over $270M to support ADVANCE projects at more than one-hundred institutions of higher education and STEM-related not-for-profit organizations.