Academics & Research News

UH receives prestigious grant to diversify STEM program

UH received a $3.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation in 2013 to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, as well as to provide more opportunities for women to move into leadership roles.

The plan was put forth this month and will last for five years. The five-year grant is part of the NSF’s ADVANCE program, intended to increase the number of underrepresented women in academic science and engineering careers. Underrepresented women include women of African American, Hispanic, Native American and Pacific Islander descent.

“It is so important that we ensure that women are given the opportunity to succeed as faculty members in all disciplines, not just for the University of Houston, but for the future,” wrote President and Chancellor Renu Khator in a press release. “That is why I am so pleased the University has been chosen for the ADVANCE grant.”

UH did not receive the grant when it applied in 2011 and was asked to reapply the next year. While waiting, more research was completed and it was discovered that most senior leadership positions on campus are predominantly male.

At the time that UH applied for the grant in 2012, 23 percent of tenured or tenure track STEM faculty at UH were women, many of those at the assistant professor level; 3 percent were women of color.

“The data gathered has helped us understand where our gaps are and what we need, this is what has shaped the goals of our program,” said Lisa Robertson, executive director for external relations and strategic partnerships for the Cullen College of Engineering and interim director for the Center for ADVANCING Faculty Success,

Strategies to promote underrepresented women will include holding workshops on inclusion and diversity, search committee training for department chairs and a work-life integration committee that will make recommendations on child-care and policies for hiring two-career couples, Robertson said.

UH is the fifth institution of higher education in Texas to receive an NSF ADVANCE IT award, joining the University of Texas at El Paso, Rice University, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas Pan American.

“The future of the engineering profession in the (United States) depends on women and minorities,” said Cullen College of Engineering Dean Joseph W. Tedesco. “In order to attract more women STEM students, and especially more women of color, we need more minority and women STEM role models in leadership positions throughout our STEM colleges.”

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