Peer Review

From the Editor

For decades, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has taken the lead in advancing women’s standing and equity in higher education, which AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider underscored in a recent issue of AAC&U’s journal On Campus with Women (OCWW) (published from 1971 to 2013): “Our long-term commitment to equity throughout higher education and in society at large, and to women’s roles and voices as strands in the larger tapestry of what we now call inclusive excellence, remains central to AAC&U’s sense of mission, purpose, and priorities. In the context of our renewed commitment to equity and inclusive excellence, AAC&U has been taking a close look at how we can best advance these priorities in a twenty-first-century context. Equity—meaning access to educational excellence and opportunity for those who have been marginalized both in higher education and in society—will be a key part of AAC&U’s portfolio going forward.”

In that same OCWW issue, Kelly Mack, AAC&U vice president for undergraduate STEM education and executive director for Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL), focused her lens on gender equity for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) faculty. “Never before has the United States’ global preeminence in STEM disciplines been more uncertain. As economic development leads to improved educational and professional opportunities around the world, the country can no longer rely on foreign-born talent to drive American advances in these fields. Indeed, it is now crucial for the United States to focus on the rich but untapped talents that exist in groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields, including women of all races and ethnicities. Increasing women’s participation is not only a matter of ensuring equity, but also of enhancing the country’s ability to innovate in these essential fields.”

AAC&U’s work on equity is shaped by its recently released strategic plan. One of four goals in that plan is Equity: Innovation, Inclusive Excellence, and Student Success. And we are committed to working on equity in all areas, including in our work on STEM. With the 2010 AAC&U/PKAL alliance, we launched the first of a family of coordinated projects that includes Preparing Critical Faculty for the Future, which is designed to nurture a new generation of STEM women faculty of color as both leaders and educators at minority-serving campuses. A more recent initiative, TIDES (Teaching to Increase Diversity and Equity in STEM), will support curriculum and faculty development activities to generate models for broader institutional change and to advance evidence-based and culturally competent teaching in STEM fields, particularly in the computer and information science domains. In all our equity and undergraduate educational improvement projects, we are committed to the ongoing essential role of an effective, supported, and diverse pool of faculty to ensure we reach key learning goals for all students.

This issue of Peer Review provides a close examination of the status of recruiting, retaining, and advancing STEM women and women of color at four-year colleges and universities. It was conceptualized and realized by guest editors Kelly Mack and Patrice McDermott, vice provost for faculty affairs of the University of Maryland Baltimore County and AAC&U senior scholar. Through their leadership, we provide below a story on how a tragic death provided inspiration to a host of Latina STEM women faculty (“The Jessica Effect”); one school’s work to establish a culture of success for African American STEM women (“Realigning the Crooked Room”); and the results of a series of campus workshops that challenged STEM women to think entrepreneurially (“Academic Women: Overlooked Entrepreneurs”). This Peer Review is bookended by articles that build strong cases for stimulating new determination—by joining research and practice—to advance STEM gender equity.

Kelly Mack’s OCWW article captures the urgency and importance of this issue: “When we consider the overall underrepresentation of STEM women faculty and the differences they experience across varying social positions and identities, the truth of the old adage becomes clear: indeed, not all women are alike. That is why it is critical to take a holistic approach to addressing both the collective needs of STEM women, and the individual needs of every woman in STEM. To do less would be not only to dishonor the disciplines that have guided the technological and medical advances that we enjoy today, but also to rob our students of the fully inclusive and optimally effective educational experiences they deserve."

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