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Villanova University Awarded $3 Million National Science Foundation ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Grant

Designed to Encourage and Support the Advancement of Women and Underrepresented Faculty in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Fields

Villanova University Awarded $3 Million National Science Foundation ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Grant

An interdisciplinary team at Villanova University has been awarded a $3 million National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Grant to fund a project that will encourage and support the advancement of women and underrepresented faculty in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Villanova is one of only five higher educational institutions to receive NSF’s ADVANCE institutional transformation grant in 2018.

The NSF’s ADVANCE program aims to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce. ADVANCE encourages institutions of higher education and the broader STEM community, including professional societies and other STEM-related not-for-profit organizations, to address various aspects of STEM academic culture and institutional structure that may differentially affect women faculty and academic administrators.

With this grant, the University’s research team will examine how higher education institutions in transition—such as Villanova, which was elevated by the Carnegie Foundation to a Doctoral Research Institution in 2016—can position themselves to increase the full participation of women and underrepresented minorities in the STEM fields to ensure that they play a role in defining, and benefit from, changes occurring in an evolving educational landscape.

“With this ADVANCE grant, Villanova will explore how best to engage, support and champion women and underrepresented faculty during transitional times,” says Amanda M. Grannas, PhD, Associate Vice Provost for Research, Professor of Chemistry and the project’s Principal Investigator. “Despite industry efforts nationally, women and underrepresented minorities are not being successfully recruited and retained in STEM. These individuals are particularly vulnerable to marginalization during times of significant institutional change.”

Focusing on both research and programming, the team will undertake a critical review of Villanova’s recruiting, hiring and retention practices; its campus culture for diversity, inclusion and equity; and how its evolving status as a national research university impacts its faculty, particularly in STEM. Based upon Villanova’s work, the research team will develop a proposed model of institutional change that could enable other higher education institutions to reduce the potential for institutional bias against women and underrepresented minorities during times of major institutional transition.

“We are proud of the important work this research team is undertaking and honored to receive the NSF ADVANCE grant,” said Villanova University Provost Patrick G. Maggitti, PhD. “It is essential that institutions such as Villanova continue to engage and support all members of our community, particularly during times of change.”

Members of the Villanova research team include Grannas; Co-Principal Investigator Narda Quigley, PhD, Professor and Chair of Management & Operations, Villanova School of Business; Co-Principal Investigator Noelle Comolli, PhD, Associate Professor and Chair of Chemical Engineering, Villanova College of Engineering; Co-Principal Investigator Terry Nance, PhD, Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Chief Diversity Officer; Internal Evaluator Seth Matthew Fishman, PhD, Director of Curriculum and Academic Outcomes and Assistant Professor of Education and Counseling in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Research team member Terri Boyer, EdD, Director of the Anne Welsh McNulty Institute for Women’s Leadership.

The project team will work with outside experts to develop unique and impactful training and engagement opportunities for senior campus leaders, department leadership, and faculty. The effectiveness of different approaches will be assessed as part of a research study, to determine what model might be most effective both at Villanova and across higher education.

“The work done here will transform Villanova in meaningful ways for women STEM faculty; the focus on intersectional gender equity will benefit the entire campus community in a positive manner; and it could serve as a blueprint for other universities in transition,” added Grannas.

The five-year project will “triangulate” the efforts of the ADVANCE grant by partnering faculty with the University’s Anne Welsh McNulty Institute for Women’s Leadership and Villanova’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI). The research team will lead the development of a program titled VISIBLE (Villanova Initiative to Support Inclusiveness and Build Leaders), operating under the auspices of the Office of the Provost. VISIBLE will work with ODI and the McNulty Institute to build a cohesive team that will work together to advance intersectional gender equality in STEM fields through dedicated initiatives and programming.

“This grant confirms in many ways the work we have been doing at the University and the clearly articulated and planned goals we have for the future,” said Terry Nance, Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer. “The greatest struggle in higher education is to turn our good intentions into action. With this ADVANCE Grant, our new strategic plan, and an increased awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion across campus, Villanova will be the kind of community that is richly diverse in population and inclusive by practice—with equity as the standard for all we do.”

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit