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Otterbein University Receives Grant to Research Challenges to Women in STEM Fields

October 2, 2012

Westerville, OH—Otterbein University has received $79,898 for the first year of a multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation to fund Equity through Inquiry: ADVANCE at Otterbein University. Otterbein is one of the few small institutions to ever receive this highly competitive award, and one of only eight nationwide this year. The project will be led by a multidisciplinary team of faculty and administrators.

The grant will enable Otterbein to conduct a self-assessment that will identify barriers to equitable employment policies and practices for women faculty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Otterbein President Kathy Krendl praised the effort. “Otterbein researchers will raise the profile of these issues on campus and develop recommendations and policies that serve as a model for other small liberal arts and comprehensive institutions,” she said.

Dean of Arts and Sciences Paul Eisenstein added, “The policies and recommendations will position Otterbein as a leader when it comes to thinking creatively about the justice of equitable employment for female faculty in STEM. STEM education is at the heart of the mission of colleges and universities in the 21st century and its success is linked to its teachers. This grant is aimed at understanding what it will take for these teachers to flourish.”

As a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI), Otterbein is uniquely positioned to conduct this assessment from a largely underappreciated perspective. Although some literature on STEM women at large research universities provides a starting point for institutional change at PUIs, the issues that women at smaller schools face vary greatly from those at larger schools in part, because of considerable differences in their focus on service, teaching, and scholarship.

The project is grounded in the social scientific literature on stereotyping, implicit bias, motherhood penalties, and work-life balance. The assessment will focus on four main aspects of the life of female (and male) faculty: Bias and Climate; Service Obligations; Work-Life Balance; and Part-Time Faculty and Dual-Career Couples. As part of the program Otterbein joins The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) at Harvard University which brings together other schools looking at these issues. The data collected — and the conclusions it authorizes — will be shared with the campus community at all levels, and at regional and national venues where academic leaders from PUIs gather who are struggling to confront these issues. Otterbein expects to use the data to lead its peer institutions into new best practices.

For more information about this grant, contact project director, Dr. Jessica Garrett Mills, at jgarrett@otterbein.edu or 614-823-1615. For more information about grants and sponsored programs at Otterbein, call the Office of Sponsored Programs at (614) 823-1845.


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