Monday, September 12, 2022
  Around Campus

By Amanda A. Taylor-Uchoa

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) titled "ADVANCE Partnership: Transforming HSI STEM Departmental Climate for Faculty Success.”  

This is the second ADVANCE grant UTRGV has obtained that focuses on increasing the representation of Latina faculty in STEM, which is the ultimate goal of the project.  

The previous NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant, awarded in 2012, focused on increasing the representation, retention and advancement of women in STEM fields across faculty and leadership ranks, with a special focus on Latinas.  

While Latinas represent one of the fastest-growing populations in the United States, Latina faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers remain underrepresented.  

This grant, set to start Sept. 1, will recognize the importance of academic departmental climates in the recruitment, retention and advancement of Latinas.  

“We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for entrusting us with a second ADVANCE grant at UTRGV,” said Dr. Ala Qubbaj, dean of the UTRGV College of Engineering and Computer Science and principal investigator (PI) on the project.   

“While both focus on increasing the representation of women and Latina faculty in STEM, the new project expands the scope beyond UTRGV to the national level. The initiatives include the national ‘Advancing Latina Faculty in STEM’ Community of Practice, Summit, as well department chair trainings, among others,” he said.  

UTRGV President Guy Bailey said projects and awards like this one are critical to the university’s central goals.  

“We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for recognizing UTRGV’s efforts and dedication to success for the entire university community. As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, UTRGV continues to create innovative pathways and possibilities in the STEM fields for our students and faculty,” he said. “We continue to build UTRGV as a university that will serve South Texas, now and well into the future.”  

According to the grant summary, the project leverages the influence, expertise and resources embedded within a multifaceted, multi-organizational partnership of academic and professional organizations, and strategically draws on the knowledge and insights gained from, but not limited to, NSF-ADVANCE projects.  

Dr. Marci McMahon, co-PI of the project and professor of Literatures and Cultural Studies in the UTRGV College of Liberal Arts, said the goal of this grant is to build department climates in which Latinas thrive, at UTRGV and beyond.  

“We are excited to partner with major academic and professional organizations committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in STEM, to put this work in action in department climates in which Latina STEM faculty thrive,” she said. "If the Latina students of today are taught by STEM Latinas, they can see themselves as the Latina STEM faculty of tomorrow.”  

Another Co-PI and university partner on the project is Dr. Christiane Spitzmueller from the University of California Merced, and two UTRGV faculty who are part of the project as senior personnel: Dr. Laura Benitez, lecturer from the UTRGV College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Dr. Teresa Feria Arroyo, associate professor in the UTRGV College of Sciences

The project also is designed to facilitate broader adaptation of evidence-based gender equity and systemic change strategies, resulting in more diverse and inclusive STEM academic workplaces and professions. 

“This project has a national impact beyond UTRGV and even the State of Texas,” Qubbaj said.  “By increasing the representation of Latina faculty in STEM, we will enhance the STEM pipeline, improve student outcomes, and ultimately strengthen the U.S. STEM workforce and global competitiveness.” 

To learn more about the grant, read the full summary here.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.