UTRGV joins national network to support female STEM faculty

By Gail Fagan

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – OCT. 7, 2015 – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will enter a network of seven minority-serving institutions to expand scholarly activities for female faculty in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and the social and behavioral sciences.

A $749,273, five-year grant to Jackson State University (JSU) from the National Science Foundation will expand the Women of Color Summer Writing Retreat, developed by JSU and implemented as part of an ADVANCE grant.

The network now includes UTRGV, along with Tennessee State University, Winston-Salem State University, Tougaloo College, Norfolk State University, and The University of the Virgin Islands.

Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, UTRGV founding provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, said the writing retreat is in line with UTRGV’s ADVANCE program, designed to increase the representation and advancement of women at UTRGV,

Rodriguez is also principal investigator (PI) of UTRGV's ADVANCE grant, which has established a Leadership Institute, an Administrative Fellows Program, a Women's Faculty Network and other initiatives to enhance the recruitment, retention and advancement of all faculty with a special focus on women faculty, particularly Hispanics in STEM fields.

“As a provost and scholar myself, I know the importance of scholarship – and writing in particular – for the success of our faculty and ultimately our institution. This is especially important as we move to become an emerging research institution,” Rodríguez said.

The writing retreat, which typically will include up to 10 women participants, will offer a curriculum with online and residence components and workshops focused on strengthening scholarly writing skills, cultivating a habit of daily writing and creating an intellectual support circle. At its conclusion, each participant will complete a high-quality journal article, book chapter, or grant funding proposal.

UTRGV will host the weeklong retreat in summer 2016, the first year of the grant.

Dr. Kristine Lowe, UTRGV associate professor of biology, participated in the retreat as a writing coach last summer at JSU. She described it as a fulfilling experience.

“The amount of writing productivity, including my own, was substantial. I am excited that other UTRGV women faculty in STEM will be able to experience this fantastic program,” she said.

The multi-institutional network  significantly increases the resources available to enhance the scholarly productivity and career advancement of faculty at its partner institutions, said Dr. Ala Qubbaj, UTRGV vice provost for Faculty Affairs and Diversity and lead co-PI of UTRGV’s ADVANCE grant.

“We recognize that women of color often have a unique set of challenges to confront, and this type of network would allow our institutions to learn from each other on how to better support those faculty,” Qubbaj said. “As an ADVANCE institution, UTRGV is committed to increasing the representation and advancement of STEM women and to the retention and success of all our faculty. This partnership will be key in achieving those goals.”


UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications

UTRGV Director of Public Relations