Thanks to the National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE grant, another milestone has been reached by The University of Texas-Pan American. For the first time in its history, the University has established a Women's Faculty Network (WFN).
More than 50 women participated in the WFN launch on Dec. 6 with a mid-afternoon merienda. The objective is to bring together female faculty from all the colleges and a diversity of disciplines at UT Pan American to discuss issues that are integral to the ADVANCE grant and to systematically address challenges and opportunities that are critical to the women's successful professional development.
"One of our goals is to create a University culture and climate where everyone feels welcomed and is welcomed," said Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, who is leading the ADVANCE project as its principal investigator. "One of the most important outcomes of this network will be to develop concrete initiatives and an action plan that will allow us to address issues and challenges that impact the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women faculty at UT Pan American."
The forum was also an opportunity for women faculty to network and establish professional relationships that will contribute to their personal growth and development, through nurturing and enduring friendships on campus.
In September 2012, UTPA received a $3.1 million award from the NSF ADVANCE program to support its development as an outstanding Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) in encouraging and attracting women, particularly Latina women, in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. The purpose is to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse workforce.
Dr. Marie T. Mora, professor of economics and ADVANCE education and empowerment team leader, said it is crucial to bring together women on campus.
"Women are few and far between in many disciplines and faculty are often extremely busy and do not have time to organize outside of their programs. We anticipate that the WFN will do that work for them and will create a space for women to come together from all across campus," Mora said. "Studies show that people have more satisfaction in their career when they are able to find a community to be a part of."
Mora said the idea for the WNF came from brainstorming efforts during the grant writing process for the ADVANCE grant.
"We want to increase networking and communication opportunities for women faculty at UTPA, gather feedback from the group for grant initiatives and disseminate information on professional development and research opportunities," Mora said.
A few times a semester, campus-wide announcements will be publicized about meetings or events organized by the WFN, such as workshops or other opportunities to meet. Organizers are also developing an email list that will allow for further communication across the network. For more information on the NSF ADVANCE program, go to its website www.nsf.gov/advance.