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VISIBLE: Villanova Initiative to Support Inclusiveness and Build Leaders


Established in 2018, VISIBLE—the Villanova Initiative to Support Inclusiveness and Build Leaders—encourages and supports the advancement of women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. VISIBLE aims to empower academic leaders—in STEM and across all disciplines—through supporting faculty career progression, advocating for and enabling systems change for equity and inclusion and building leadership practice for inclusive excellence.

Events and Programs


In 2018, Villanova University was awarded a $3 Million National Science Foundation ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Grant to fund a project that will encourage and support the advancement of women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. The goal of ADVANCE at the National Science Foundation is to increase the representation of women in STEM careers at all levels, thereby contributing to development of a more diverse STEM workforce.

The Villanova ADVANCE grant establishes VISIBLE—the Villanova Initiative to Support Inclusiveness and Build Leaders. Housed in the Office of the Provost, VISIBLE partners with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Anne Welsh McNulty Institute for Women's Leadership to form a cohesive team to advance intersectional gender equity. Read the University's press release announcing the grant.

Villanova is an institution in transition, as evidenced by the University’s elevation by the Carnegie Foundation to a Doctoral Research Institution in 2016, implementation of a new ten-year Strategic Plan in 2020, and changes in leadership at both the University and college level. The arrival of COVID-19 in 2020 brought additional change for all institutions of higher education, including differential impacts of the pandemic on scholars, an economic downturn, and calls for addressing racial inequities in society.

In a landscape of shifting University identity and expectations, faculty members experience additional pressures. Research shows that in institutions undergoing change, women and members of other minoritized groups are more vulnerable to these shifting—and often unspoken—expectations.

As Villanova continues to evolve, it is imperative that our institutional transition occurs in such a way that all faculty participate in and benefit from the changes. This project will help the University to transform by both studying and managing these shifts in faculty culture and expectations.

The VISIBLE team will plan and execute a series of initiatives to support the desired outcomes of the project. These initiatives are grouped into three spheres of action that will combine to build a community in which faculty are effectively hired, supported and advanced at Villanova.

Change Management

Prepare mid-level campus leaders to navigate a changing faculty culture and expectations, particularly as they impact equity and inclusion.

Hiring, Promotion and Assessment

Provide resources and expertise to improve intersectional equity and inclusion in the policies and procedures that impact hiring and advancement of faculty at Villanova. 

Improving the Culture for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 

Advocate for policy and process changes to foster a climate at Villanova grounded in intersectional gender equity and inclusion. Execute a unique research project that studies the effects of different training techniques on the management of stress and reduction of unconscious bias during institutional transformation.  

While the NSF ADVANCE grant focuses on improving Villanova’s recruitment and advancement of women faculty in STEM disciplines, the VISIBLE office aims to leverage its programs to impact all disciplines and minoritized groups across the institution.

At Villanova, leadership for equity and inclusion is integral to the University’s Augustinian mission and strategic plan.

VISIBLE seeks to illuminate the responsibility of academic leaders to create a welcoming and equitable community, in service of Villanova’s mission and core values – VeritasUnitasCaritas.

VISIBLE aims to empower academic leaders by:

  • Effecting process and policy change
  • Providing professional development and support
  • Fostering research

VISIBLE takes an interest in all aspects of equity among faculty across all Colleges and disciplines at Villanova.

Focusing on both research and programming, the VISIBLE team will undertake a critical review of Villanova’s recruiting, hiring and promotion practices in the context of its evolving status as a national research university. To support this work, the VISIBLE team will develop unique and impactful leadership training and engagement opportunities for senior campus leaders, department leadership, and faculty. The stated goals of Villanova's ADVANCE grant are as follows:

  1. Use the principles of organizational change management theory to prepare Villanova's leadership to manage the transition in institutional identity in an inclusive and equitable manner.
  2. Employ workshops on individual change management theory to assist faculty members as they navigate a shifting landscape of expectations.
  3. Implement interventions aimed at removing barriers to the success of women on the faculty in STEM departments, in the realms of hiring, assessment, and promotion, as well as in the broader University climate for diversity.
  4. Execute a unique research project that parallels the change management focus and studies the effects of different training techniques on the management of stress and reduction of unconscious bias during institutional transformation.
  5. Develop a model for other institutions undergoing major change.

Achievement of these five goals is anticipated to have a positive impact on:

  • the scholarly productivity of the women on the faculty of STEM departments;
  • the rate at which existing women on the faculty of STEM departments are promoted to Full Professor;
  • the rate at which Villanova hires women, particularly minoritized women, in the STEM fields; and
  • the diversity in key leadership roles.



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1824237. 

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.