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Higher Education

Advancing Female Academics

In March, Rensselaer announced a universitywide initiative to improve representation of female educators in academia’s influential high-ranking positions. Funded by a $329,960 grant from the National Science Foundation, the program seeks to aid women along the academic career path from junior positions toward tenure and full professorship.

Called RAMP-UP (Reforming Advancement Processes through University Professions), the effort is aimed at improving the advancement experience for Rensselaer faculty, while serving as a national model for advancement reform, according to Cheryl Geisler, professor and chair of Rensselaer’s Language, Literature, and Communication department and principal investigator on the project.

The kickoff celebration included a colloquy of national experts on women’s advancement issues led by President Shirley Ann Jackson.

“The underrepresentation in science and engineering of young women and ethnic minority youth — a new majority in the United States accounting for nearly two-thirds of the population — has become a growing national issue,” Jackson said in her remarks. “Recent reports by major academic and scientific organizations indicate that these trends extend past students to include female and minority educators in science and engineering whose presence is lacking in academia’s tenured, chaired, and full professor positions.

“Understanding and unraveling the myriad 21st-century challenges requires tapping the ‘new majority,’ engaging students early in science to excite the next generation of scientists, engineers, leaders, and decision makers; and re-evaluating and reforming university advancement processes to ensure that all academics are extended an unbiased, equal opportunity to excel.”

The RAMP-UP program addresses women’s advancement at a range of levels across the Institute, with four key components: faculty coaches in each school to serve as tenure advisers for faculty members; a pipeline search to recruit a woman from a nonacademic source for an on-campus, tenured, full professor position; funding for “Career Campaign” awards that support mentoring between senior and junior faculty members; and workshops that address advancement issues.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.