Maryville University Participates in NSF Grant to Promote Women Sciences Educators


Maryville University has been invited to participate in a National Science Foundation grant to create mentoring opportunities for women faculty members in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Along with Maryville, the five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) project—known as ADVANCE—involves 11 other universities, with Gonzaga University serving as the lead institution.

Candace Chambers, PhD, assistant dean of Maryville’s College of Arts and Sciences and professor of chemistry, will serve as project leader for physics educators. Other Maryville faculty members are eligible participants. As part of the program, 75 educators from six STEM disciplines and hailing from all career levels—including early, mid-career and senior status—will participate.

The project will become a model for future mentoring networks designed for women faculty in the fields of biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics and physics. Career challenges, including advancement issues, isolation and the balancing of family and work lives, are typical among women who are teacher-scholars in these fields, Chambers says.

“At any career level, women faculty who want to advance have important things to talk about with others in the same spot,” she says. “There are commonalities in the challenges they face, as well as in the solutions.”

The NSF grant project is designed to increase opportunities for participants in regard to career advancement, as well as decrease the isolation often felt by women faculty members in these particular fields. Participants will connect with other female STEM educators through face-to-face meetings in small groups and at conferences, and via electronic exchanges.

“A 2006 study showed that only six percent of full professors in physics were women, while another found that out of all the nation’s bachelor’s-only degree granting institutions, fifty percent had no women educators in physics at all,” Chambers says. “That’s just not right. Similar to the discussions about women having a healthy body image, I want my daughter to have a healthy science image.”

Only recently, the number of women educators in biology has surpassed the number of men in higher education classrooms, she adds. Given bleak employment statistics, Chambers says the grant program provides important resources and leadership opportunities for participants.

“It’s getting better, but it still varies greatly by discipline. In engineering, for instance, women earned sixty percent of the master’s degrees in 2004, but only seventeen percent of the PhDs. This is a problem across all disciplines—women taper off at the more senior levels.”

Founded in 1872, Maryville University is a four-year, private university located in St. Louis, Missouri, and ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges in the National Universities category. Maryville University students may choose from 50 academic programs, including degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. Approximately 3,800 students are enrolled through the College of Arts and Sciences, John E. Simon School of Business, School of Health Professions and School of Education.