UTPA's NSF ADVANCE Administrative Fellows Program to develop faculty leadership skills
Posted: 10/30/2013
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Five faculty members at The University of Texas-Pan American will gain hands-on administrative experience to further develop their leadership skills under a new program initiated this fall at the University.

Five UTPA faculty members were recently selected as the inaugural group of ADVANCE Administrative Fellows for the 2013-2014 academic year. They are left to right Dr. Javier Macossay, associate professor of chemistry; Dr. Liang Zeng, associate professor of physics and geology; Dr. Dorina Chipara, assistant professor of physics and geology; Dr. Teresa P. Feria, assistant professor of biology; and Dr. Marci McMahon, assistant professor of English.
As participants in the ADVANCE Administrative Fellows Program, they will assume duties and coordinate activities in administrative areas out of their discipline's college. The program is sponsored by UTPA's National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant - a $3.1 million five-year institutional transformation grant intended to increase the representation and advancement of female faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In return for their service, the Fellows, who began their duties for one academic year on Sept. 1, will receive a nine-month stipend of $4,000.

Three of the five inaugural Fellows are female faculty in STEM disciplines.

The initial group of Fellows and the office/division in which they are working are:

• Dr. Dorina Chipara, assistant professor of physics and geology, Office of Undergraduate Research and Service Learning;

• Dr. Teresa P. Feria, assistant professor of biology, Office of Research;

• Dr. Liang Zeng, associate professor of physics and geology, Office of the Vice President for Business Affairs;

• Dr. Javier Macossay, associate professor of chemistry, Office of Vice President for University Advancement; and

• Dr. Marci McMahon, assistant professor of English, Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs.

During a luncheon where the Fellows were introduced, UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen said he was excited about the program that will help create leaders, particularly female leaders, at the University.

"This grant was a major triumph ... it really gives us the opportunity to move forward," he said. "You are really the future, the future leaders."

Zeng said she hopes to gain additional leadership skills working with current skilled administrators. She will assist the Department of Community Engagement in the Office of Vice President for Business Affairs to expand UTPA physical science outreach programs for local school districts. She will also write grants that will expand the capacities of the University to host physics teacher training and a physics summer campus for middle school students. Zeng recently helped facilitate about 30 physics and geology demonstrations for Rio Grande Valley students during the University's 2013 HESTEC conference. She will also serve on the HESTEC evaluation team as a co-principal investigator.

Zeng said the program not only enhances her knowledge and skills but also benefits the University.

"This program is very beneficial to the university because it makes the administrative team more diverse in terms of gender and thus makes the university a healthier working environment for all the employees," Zeng said.

Fellowship applicants were selected based on their interpersonal, communication and leadership skills. Additionally, they were required to have either completed the ADVANCE Leadership Institute in Spring 2013 or be committed to completing it in Spring 2014. The institute, also initiated under the ADVANCE grant, provides a mentoring component as well as a series of presentations and training sessions over a semester on topics such as decision making and problem solving, collaboration, strategic planning and conflict management and resolution.

UTPA Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Havidán Rodríguez said the ADVANCE program is about changing the institution's culture and brings in the entire University community.

"The program's focus is on STEM and on women but we decided to expand that, that's why we have a man and a faculty fellow not in STEM. It's about getting your feedback, your advice, your participation ... bringing in new blood into the picture and new ideas," he said. "This is bringing in new leaders to help us lead and build this institution."

The fellowship is open to tenured and tenure-track faculty regardless of gender, college or academic discipline. Applications for the 2014-15 ADVANCE Administrative Fellows Program will be solicited in Spring 2014. For more information about this program or the ADVANCE Leadership Institute, contact Dr. Marie Mora, vice provost fellow for Faculty Affairs, at (956) 665-3257 or