NSF ADVANCE Award Supports “Gender Equity in STEM”

September 17, 2020

Several faculty members and administrators across St. John’s University have been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE grant in the amount of $300,000 for the project, “ACE-IT: Advancing Communities of Equity through Institutional Transformation at St. John's University.”  

Interim Dean of St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Associate Professor of Chemistry Gina M. Florio, Ph.D., is the principal investigator (PI) on the proposal. The co-principal investigators include: Associate Professor in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Manouchkathe Cassagnol, Ph.D.; Associate Professor of Computer Science Joan E. DeBello, Ph.D.; Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Chemistry Alison G. Hyslop, Ph.D.; and Interim Dean of University Libraries and Vice Provost for Academic Support Services and Faculty Development André McKenzie, Ed.D. 

The NSF ADVANCE program contributes to the NSF's goal of a more diverse and capable science and engineering workforce. It aims to broaden the implementation of evidence-based systemic change strategies that promote equity for STEM faculty in academic workplaces and the academic profession.  

“Our University devotes intellectual and physical resources to search out the causes of poverty and social injustice,” said Dr. Florio. “As with other programs and scholarly pursuits, the ACE-IT leadership team seeks to answer the Vincentian question of ‘what must be done?’ In this case, ‘what must I do, what must you do, and what must we do to make systemic change to advance equity in our Institution and across academe?’” 

The St. John’s project is funded in the Catalyst track of the grant program. The Catalyst track is designed to broaden the types of institutions of higher education that can undertake data collection and institutional self-assessment to identify and address systemic gender inequities impacting their STEM faculty. 

The Advancing Communities of Equity through Institutional Transformation (ACE-IT) program at St. John's will focus on assessing the climate experienced by minoritized faculty, including women in STEM, and improving institutional culture and structures so that all members of the faculty are treated equitably, regardless of any non-merit status.  

During the grant term of January 2021 to December 2022, the ACE-IT leadership team will engage the university community to assess the faculty experience, pilot equity and inclusion initiatives, and develop a five-year strategic plan for STEM faculty equity. The plan will address strategies to increase faculty diversity, mitigate barriers to equity, and develop a more inclusive campus culture and climate. 

Many St. John’s faculty across the University’s five schools teach in STEM and STEM-adjacent disciplines, so the scope of the program will be interdisciplinary and University-wide, including both full-time and contingent faculty. The specific charge of the ACE-IT program will be to examine the experiences of women faculty in STEM, but the leadership team anticipate that their work will inform diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives for all faculty across the University community.  

According to the NSF, “This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.” 

“We are hopeful that with this funding from the NSF, the ACE-IT program activities will serve as a model for how structural, anti-oppression work can be accomplished through faculty and administrative collaboration, with broad impact at St. John’s and across academe," said Dr. Florio.