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Press Release  
Release Date: Friday, May 24, 2013 4:00 PM
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Media Contact:
Rachel Mann
Communications Specialist
Howard Receives $3.4 Million to Support Careers of Women in STEM Faculty

WASHINGTON (October 9, 2012) – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Howard University a $3.4 million grant from the ADVANCE program for a five-year institutional transformation project.  This fall, Howard is one of 13 institutions to be awarded an ADVANCE project and the only HBCU recipient.   

Launched in 2001, the ADVANCE program was designed to increase diversity in academia – specifically in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines – by developing the interest, participation and advancement of women in these areas.  Howard’s award supports the ADVANCE Institutional Transformation project, referred to as ADVANCE-IT, one of many diverse projects under the ADVANCE umbrella.  Five other projects awarded this fall are also in the area of institutional transformation.

Howard has an extraordinary track record of diversifying the STEM field with the highest number of African-American bachelor’s degree recipients who subsequently earned science and engineering doctoral degrees nationally according to a recent NSF study.

 “This NSF ADVANCE IT grant presents an opportunity for Howard to be a leader and ensure that women, and in particular women of color, have increased representation as STEM faculty,” said Provost and Chief Academic Officer Wayne A.I. Frederick, M.D., MBA.

Howard University ADVANCE-IT: Women of Color Faculty in STEM as Change Agents aims to develop an innovative and strategic model for institutional transformation at Howard University that increases the number of female faculty and academic leaders in the STEM disciplines.  The program plans to increase diversity through education, advocacy, and empowerment while simultaneously making a significant contribution to strengthening the nation’s STEM workforce. The portfolio of activities and outcomes will also benefit other non-STEM academic areas by supporting general policies and establishing practices reflective of the University’s commitment to diversity.

Principal Investigator Sonya T. Smith, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Mechanical Engineering department, is excited about the opportunity to promote diversity at the University.  “Through this NSF ADVANCE institutional transformation award, Howard University has the opportunity to implement programs that will attract and retain more women faculty in the STEM disciplines,” says Dr. Smith.  “Howard has a legacy of leadership in this area, being one of the few universities in the country to admit women to its graduate, professional and undergraduate programs since its inception. As a woman of color faculty member in STEM, I am intimately aware of the challenges and rewards of being a part of this small group. This ADVANCE IT award will help the University to build capacity and expand it efforts.”

The project has two co-investigators: Cynthia Winston, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Paula Whetsel-Ribeau, Ed.D., founder and director of Howard University Women as Change Agents (WACA). They will lead the HU ADVANCE-IT social science study.  This will be the first study in the nation that adopts a participatory-advocacy mixed methods research design to understand how women faculty in STEM experience recruitment, promotion, retention, leadership development, and healthy balanced living. Whetsel-Ribeau’s scholarship was instrumental in providing the empirical foundation for the proposal.  Prior to coming to Howard University, she conducted a study of academic women in higher education in Ohio. Dr. Winston is the Director of the Identity and Success Research Laboratory and was awarded a National Science Foundation Early Career Award for the development a novel life story research method to study the identity, psychology of success and lives of African Americans in STEM.

Ms. Cherise Rhyns serves as senior personnel and brings to the team expertise in a broad range of communications technologies and a strong background in human resource policies. She will assist the HU AVDVANCE-IT team in communicating its education empowerment, and advocacy programs to the University.
ADVANCE-IT projects are expected to impact institutions of higher education by fostering environments that attract, support and retain an equitable proportion of women in STEM academic careers. The projects must also include a research study to investigate theory-driven models relative to the presence and career progression of women in academic STEM disciplines. 

The award will be formally announced to the University community later this month. For more information, visit


Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, two Truman Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, 30 Fulbright Scholars and 11 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University's Web site at

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