Grant Adds Two Science Professorships for Women

Prestigious Luce grant brings two women professors to growing engineering, computer science programs

By Magazine Staff

While studying computer science at Loyola, Jacqueline Kenney Feild, ’07, took for granted that three faculty members in the department were women. “Until I left Loyola and saw other departments, I didn’t realize how lucky we were to have so many women,” Feild said.

As she pursues a Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Feild realizes how important it was to learn from those talented teachers and researchers. “Just interacting with successful women who are doing the things you hope to do in your future is very helpful.”

VITAL CONTRIBUTION

Now thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation’s Clare Boothe Luce Program, two new tenure-track women professors will begin teaching at Loyola this fall. The five-year grant supports the addition of one faculty member each in the computer science and engineering departments.

“The Luce program is an enabler of strong, innovative science that makes a vital contribution to all of society,” said Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs. “Social factors narrow the pipeline toward science for women as they proceed through their early life, despite their abilities. Through this funding, Loyola will be able to continue to cultivate an environment of support for women—both students and faculty—to study, engage in innovative research in the natural sciences, and thrive.”

In addition to matching the grant and funding the positions beyond the life of the grant, the University has committed to ensuring the professors are supported by an environment that fosters their professional success so they can make important contributions in their fields.

“Increased success of women in the sciences brings many opportunities to improve our quality of life through scientific scholarship and teaching,” Snyder said.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE

The addition of the new faculty comes at a time when Loyola is engaged in a strategic initiative to bolster its natural sciences departments, attract more diverse and qualified students—especially women—to the sciences, and recruit and retain research-active faculty. The two new professors will find new laboratories—including dedicated time and space for their research—and enhanced workspace in a renovated and expanded Donnelly Science Center, scheduled to be completed this summer.

By adding two women to its science faculty, Loyola hopes to encourage more young women to pursue natural sciences careers. But the University is equally focused on cultivating an environment where professors can make significant contributions to their fields. With the Luce funding, Loyola can offer the professors professional development and increased child care expense funds, sabbaticals in their fourth years, and reduced teaching schedules.

Helping women faculty succeed in tenure-track positions, advancing to associate and then to full professor is especially important in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, where the presence of women in tenure-track positions in STEM fields tends to decrease at more advanced career stages, said Suzanne Keilson, Ph.D., associate dean of Loyola College, the University’s school of arts and sciences.

“A tenured position is a very special thing that allows a person to take risks and be competitive in their research and scholarly pursuits, whether it is knowledge production, or applications, or community-focused work, or exploring new disciplinary and interdisciplinary areas. This is not possible in the non-tenure-track ranks,” Keilson said. “The percentage of women in these ranks drops off dramatically, even though women have been earning Ph.D.s in these fields.”

FIXING THE LEAK

Loyola has a strong record of accomplished women in the sciences. All four of Loyola’s National Science Foundation grants secured last year were awarded to women researchers.

“There is the metaphor of the leaky pipeline for women in the sciences. We see that there are several key points where young girls and women drop out of the STEM pipeline. The first place may be middle or high school math, but another key point comes on the tenure-track and advancing in the professoriate. People have proposed all kinds of hypotheses for why we see this continuing gap—from Harvard’s Larry Summers’ suggesting innate issues, to questions of stereotype threat, to questions of work-life balance that weigh more heavily on female faculty, to questions of mentorship at all levels, to questions of self-image and socially trained behaviors. I have probably experienced all of these to one extent or another,” Keilson said. “The Luce grant is established as a win-win situation that strengthens the depth, breadth, offerings, and expertise in Loyola’s computer science and engineering departments while allowing us to repair our portion of the pipeline, helping those engaged with us to flourish. The mutual support we can provide is what makes this possible in an environment like Loyola’s.”

BY THE NUMBERS

The percentage of women majoring in the physical, mathematical, computer science, and engineering disciplines at Loyola has increased from 33 to 53 percent over the past decade. Loyola’s numbers are better than the national average—25 percent of engineering majors at Loyola are women, compared to 18 percent nationally.

“The benefit of the Luce grant is that this faculty member can mentor, encourage, and serve as a role model for students, both men and women, while becoming an outstanding researcher and teacher herself,” said Roger Eastman, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of computer science.

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