HU ADVANCE-IT Initiatives

We aspire to weave our outcomes into the DNA of Howard University.






Although faculty members are expected to teach, conduct research, and to provide service to the University, research productivity (defined as authorship of peer-reviewed publications) takes primacy over the other two items, in respect to advancement to a higher rank. Women faculty are often faced with the found fact that increased time commitments to teaching are associated with decreased publication productivity at higher rates than their male counterparts.

HU ADVANCE-IT established Writing Retreats to address this problem. These retreats are held at an off-site location, so that participants are able to fully engage in their work. Participating faculty are carted off to an isolated sanctuary for a weekend of writing workshops, with all related expenses covered by HU ADVANCE-IT. The focus of the workshops is on publication of existing research results in peer-reviewed journals. After conducting the first annual Writing Retreat, HU ADVANCE-IT discovered many intangible outcomes, like restoral of personal achievement based fulfillment, as opposed to fulfillment that comes from giving of self to others in the roles of teacher and mentor.


One of the pillars of promotion to the highest academic rank is sponsored research that leads to peer reviewed journal articles. Another is international recognition. Both of these pillars require some form of “asking,” either through submitting proposals and negotiations with funding agencies, or requesting funds for international travel. It also requires the knowledge and ability to ask for discretionary research resources that are available in the department, school or college, and university. Research shows that women do not make requests of their management as frequently as their male colleagues, and therefore do not receive necessary discretionary funding.

The leadership development component of HU ADVANCE-IT helps develop negotiating skills for women STEM faculty at Howard, and the Mini-Grant program provides funds to accelerate the leveling of opportunities available to STEM women faculty. The purpose of the HU ADVANCE-IT Mini-Grant is to have an immediate impact on women faculty in STEM’s access to discretionary funds. These funds should be used to catalyze collaborations, to attend meetings, and to provide bridge funding for research in between research grant awards. The expectation is that this dual approach to leveling, training and access to capital will highly impact women faculty’s experience in what types of requests should be made. Mini-Grants are one-time awards to faculty members with the belief that they will use the award, and the skills developed in leadership training, to negotiate with their departments, schools, and colleges for any future discretionary funding needs.


Visibility of women faculty in STEM through the Media campaign is only one set of actions toward this goal. As an additional mechanism to increase women in STEM’s recognition for their important contributions to STEM innovation and discovery, HU ADVANCE-IT annually selects a woman in STEM faculty Researcher of the Year. The women in STEM faculty Researcher of the Year is carefully chosen by the HU ADVANCE-IT leadership team, presented with an award at Howard University’s annual Research Symposium, and then promoted through the HU ADVANCE-IT Media Campaign.

Recipients To-Date:

Dr. Georgia M. Dunston, 2014


In 2010, HU ADVANCE-IT Co-PI, Dr. Cynthia Whetsel-Ribeau, lead Women as Change Agents (WACA) in hosting Howard University’s first research symposium on women. At the event, undergraduate and graduate women students presented posters that celebrated historical and contemporary perspectives of women of color as change agents. HU ADVANCE-IT has used the WACA model to create an annual Research Symposium for women faculty in STEM.

As a mechanism to increase women in STEM’s recognition for their important contributions to STEM innovation and discovery, HU ADVANCE-IT selects a Researcher of the Year; the first was Dr. Georgia Dunston, Founder of Howard University’s Human Genome Center.


Howard University has been committed to gender equality in education since its founding. It was one of the few universities to admit women to its graduate and professional programs, as well as its undergraduate programs, from its inception (Winston, 2010). Howard led the nation in its appointment of women of color to senior leadership disciplines, dating back to the 1940s. This proud legacy must continue to propagate.

HU ADVANCE-IT’s Advancing Leaders Program (ALP) provides a means for women faculty to gain or enhance basic skills to help them become academic leaders. The ALP uses Brown University’s ADVANCE Leadership Program as a model (Brown University, 2011). Tenured women faculty who are interested in pursuing administrative positions shadow University administrators, and HU ADVANCE-IT provides support for teaching release time or funding for lab/research support. The key objectives of the program are to afford faculty with opportunities to discover what administrative work entails, to learn about the process of decision-making at various levels in the university, and to build their own leadership skills.

HU ADVANCE-IT’s Advancing Leaders Program couples prospective administrators with current administrators at Howard, and the newly formed team is charged to collaborate on a special project. Pairing is determined case-by-case, in accordance with each faculty member’s individual interests, the sponsoring administrator’s availability, and the timing of projects. Because we are nestled in America’s think-tank, HU ADVANCE-IT endeavors to expand the program to include area leaders outside of Howard University, in order to fully take advantage of our location, and the multitude of disciplines within.


Dr. Paula Whetsel-Ribeau, Co-PI of HU ADVANCE-IT, founded Howard University Women as Change Agents (WACA). WACA served to create safe spaces where women at Howard could support and be supported, model and follow a model, teach and be taught to nurture the leader within. During the Spring Semester of 2011, Howard University WACA hosted the first gathering of all women faculty members at the university and proctored an open-ended questionnaire concerning the climate for women faculty at Howard. Its focus was on their experiences with, and attitudes towards, junior faculty mentoring, gender differences in faculty practices, factors related to career advancement, the tenure process, unique challenges faced by women faculty, values related to an effective university, and the role that gender has played in the course of their careers.

The WACA questionnaire garnered many results; including inspiring the HU ADVANCE-IT Experience Study, and the HU ADVANCE-IT Mentoring Program, both designed for women faculty in STEM disciplines. There are several goals of the Mentoring Program, including but not limited to, the following: increasing faculty members’ understanding of current scholarship on and definitions of mentoring; identifying and providing access for faculty members to multiple types of internal and external mentors, including a mentor in the same field who can assist with research productivity and career advancement; and pairing women faculty in STEM with life-coach mentors to help them navigate interpersonal relationship challenges within their academic unit. This program was developed in a way that each faculty member has multiple mentors to accommodate divergent requirements of women in academic STEM.

Faculty Fellow

Howard University is transforming its academic programs and faculty composition through the University Renewal Initiative. During the 2011-2012 academic year, eligible faculty began to transition through a phased, incentivized retirement plan. At that time, over 50% of the Howard University faculty was eligible for retirement. The initiative presented a unique opportunity for HU ADVANCE-IT, at its inception, to create a program that ensures that women, women of color in particular, have increased representation among the applicants considered to replace retiring faculty in STEM departments.

It quickly became a primary desired outcome of HU ADVANCE-IT’s overall goals to ensure that at least 50% of the applicants for those vacancies in STEM were women. HU ADVANCE-IT then implemented university-wide education, empowerment, and advocacy initiatives to transform the institutional climate to attract, retain, and promote to full professor more women in STEM faculty at Howard.

In an effort to attract a larger pool of eligible women faculty, HU ADVANCE-IT also solicits participation from women professors at other research-intensive universities to apply for one-year faculty fellowships on Howard University’s campus. HU ADVANCE-IT sponsors one visiting woman faculty, per year, in the three Colleges that contain STEM disciplines: Engineering, Architecture and Computer Science, Arts & Sciences, and Medicine (Basic Sciences). The Faculty Fellow program is designed to assist the STEM disciplines in identifying future faculty members during the phased retirement program, under Howard’s University Renewal Initiative.


Unconscious biases may prevent women faculty candidates from becoming finalists in a search or from receiving an impartial evaluation for promotion . Most of these decisions are made by well-intentioned people who are not aware of the unconscious processes they use to make decisions. For the purposes of the HU ADVANCE-IT, we define education as information dissemination and training delivered through seminars and interventions to inform faculty committees and others of practices that may unintentionally disadvantage women applicants in the hiring and evaluation process. This proposal describes the HU ADVANCE-IT Unconscious Bias Education initiative that will ensure Howard University remains competitive in attracting and retaining outstanding faculty candidates. The proposed training will occur at the department, school/college, and university levels:

• Unconscious Bias Training for Department Search and APT Committees. All tenured faculty members comprise a department’s APT committee although search committees may contain untenured faculty and a student representative. HU ADVANCE-IT proposes to work with the Provost and STEM Deans to ensure that each departmental APT committee and each Faculty Search committee has unconscious bias training. This training will introduce the core concepts of unconscious bias and then suggest strategies to combat bias in the function of each committee.

• Unconscious Bias Training for School/College APT Committees. The Howard University Faculty Handbook dictates that School/College APT committee members serve two-year terms. Committees are reformulated at the beginning of each academic year by replacing members whose terms have expired. HU-ADVANCE proposes to provide each School/Division/College APT committee unconscious bias training. Individual training will be available in subsequent years for newly elected school/division/college APT members (see below).

• Unconscious Bias Training in the Howard University Professional Development and Leadership Academy (HUPDLA). In order to institutionalize the Unconscious Bias training, we request that HUPDLA host Unconscious Bias training on a recurring basis. In this way the training will be available for all faculty as part of the HUPDLA regular course offerings. We recommend a train-the-trainer model where a staff member in the PDLA is identified to be trained by Cook Ross Inc. as a certified unconscious bias mitigation instructor. HU ADVANCE-IT will cover the cost of the training for the staff member.

If you are interested in receiving Unconscious Bias for your APT or Search Committee, please review these details.


Study Rationale

The number of degrees earned by all women with academic careers in STEM has increased over time. Even with increased overall numbers, women—especially women of color—in STEM academia are underrepresented and often intellectually undervalued by their colleagues.
 These women have interesting and instructive educational, professional, and personal lived experiences that have significant value in informing institutional transformation, especially in respect to underrepresentation. HU ADVANCE-IT aspires to tap into that value and develop an empirical model for change through our Experience Study.
It is significant that this study is being conducted at Howard University. Howard has a long legacy of excellence in research design, the development of culturally appropriate theoretical frameworks to study the experiences of women of color, and of scholarly productivity in publishing subsequent work. Also, women faculty in STEM at Howard University are often inundated with requests to participate in research from nationwide scholars, grant proposal writers, and doctoral students who are typically new to the study of women of color. With this wealth of resources at hand, the HU ADVANCE-IT Experience Study has already begun to yield the type of innovation and discovery that continues to fortify Howard University as a historically rich research center.

Study Purpose and Design Approach

The purpose of the HU ADVANCE-IT Experience Study is to advance scholarship on women with academic careers in STEM, as well as to inform further development of HU ADVANCE-IT Empowerment, Education, and Advocacy initiatives. This is the first NSF ADVANCE-IT social science study to adopt a Participatory Advocacy Model along with a Narrative Personality Approach to discovery.

As a key element of the study model and approach, a team of women STEM faculty and advisors are engaged in all dimensions of design including, but not limited to, the following: recruitment, sampling, instrument development, data processing and management, data collection, data analysis, debriefing protocol, and dissemination protocol. The study employs a sequential mixed methods design.

Study Committee and Advisors

The committee members include the following:

Dr. Denee Mwendewa, Associate Professor, Psychology
Dr. Angela Cole, Associate Professor & Chair, Psychology
Dr. Georgia Dunston, Professor, Microbiology
Dr. Georita Frierson, Assistant Professor, Psychology & Director, Clinical Training
Leshell Hately, HU ADVANCE-IT, Program Manager
Dr. Hope Hill, Associate Professor, Psychology
Dr. Lystranne Maynard, Assistant Professor, Chemistry
Dr. Mary McKenna, Professor, Biology
Dr. Sonya Sobrian, Associate Professor, Pharmacology
Dr. Talitha Washington, Associate Professor, Mathematics
Dr. Sonya Smith, Professor and Chair, Mechanical Engineering & HU ADVANCE-IT, P.I.
Dr. Paula Whetsel-Ribeau, HU ADVANCE-IT, CO-P.I.
Dr. Cynthia Winston, Associate Professor & HU ADVANCE-IT, CO-P.I.

The advisors include the following:
Dr. Kimberley Freeman, Associate Professor and Chair, Human Development and Psychoeducational Studies and HU ADVANCE-IT, Internal Advisory Board member
Dr. Terri Adams-Fuller, Associate Professor, Sociology and HU ADVANCE-IT, Internal Advisory Board member


In order for a critical mass of women faculty in STEM at Howard to exist, and be promoted through the ranks of the professoriate, there must be a push for visibility. HU ADVANCE-IT’s Media Campaign was designed to advocate for women STEM faculty by placing their authority in scientific and technological innovation, and their contribution to Howard University, on display for public consumption.

The Media Campaign has captured stories that highlight the successes and contributions of women faculty in the STEM areas. These stories are featured on the HU ADVANCE-IT website, its multiple social media outlets, and through partnership with Howard University’s Office of University Communications, will correspondingly begin to reach a broader, global audience.

HU ADVANCE-IT has also begun developing an archival narrative of scholarship and leadership of African American women in STEM, which will become a part of the Howard University Moorland-Spingarn Research Center collection. Moorland-Spingarn is world-renowned, recognized as one of the largest and most comprehensive repositories for documentation of the history and culture of people of African decent in the diaspora. Due to this invaluable resource at hand, HU ADVANCE-IT will be able to capture, document, and make permanently visible the significant contributions women in STEM have historically made to their respective fields.


During the 1940s, Flemmie Kittrell, a Cornell University graduate and the first African-American woman in the country to earn a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences, was appointed as Chair of the Howard University Department of Home Economics. In the 1950s, Marie Clark Taylor, who earned her Ph.D. from Fordham University, was the Chair of the Howard University Botany Department. In 1969, at Howard, Angela D. Ferguson became the highest-ranking woman administrator in Howard University’s Division of Health Affairs when she became the administrator responsible for planning the new Howard University Hospital (Epps, et al., 1994; Logan, 1969). Later, she was named Associate Vice President of Health Affairs. Today, HU ADVANCE-IT’s P.I., Dr. Sonya Smith, is the first woman to be Department Chair of Mechanical Engineering; her colleagues, Dr. Kim Jones and Dr. Angela Cole, also hold Department Chair titles in Civil Engineering and Psychology, respectively.

Based on this history, there is no better place than Howard University for an collection to be created to document the career successes of women of color in STEM. HU ADVANCE-IT has begun developing an archival narrative of scholarship and leadership of African American women in STEM, which will become a part of the Howard University Moorland-Spingarn Research Center collection. Moorland-Spingarn is world-renowned, recognized as one of the largest and most comprehensive repositories for documentation of the history and culture of people of African decent in the diaspora. Due to this invaluable resource at hand, HU ADVANCE-IT will be able to capture, record, and make permanently visible the significant contributions women in STEM have historically made to their respective fields.