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Alfred P. Sloan Grant Will ENHANCE Faculty Diversity Efforts

The Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives in Sciences, or CAMPOS, has received a $250,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for STEM faculty diversity, assisting underrepresented minorities with research development and family care during and after the coronavirus pandemic. “I am very grateful to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation," says Mariel Vazquez, Principal Investigator, "and to the many campus leaders for supporting this proposal. The immediate goal of ENHANCE is to help a diverse group of outstanding STEM faculty as they recover from the career disruptions caused by COVID-19. Moving forward these interventions present innovative and necessary ways to support and enhance the careers of STEM faculty, especially those from groups underrepresented in their disciplines.”

The funding will go to a new program called ENHANCE: Promoting Advancement and Retention of Underrepresented STEM Faculty by Enhancing Research Productivity and Centering Family Support.

In addition to the Sloan grant, ENHANCE will also receive more than $140,000 of in-kind support from the Office of the Provost, Office of Academic Diversity and Office of Research, as well as the four undergraduate colleges, the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing and three other schools, Education, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.

The principal investigators are Mariel Vazquez, professor of mathematics and of microbiology and molecular genetics, and CAMPOS faculty director; and Lorena Oropeza, professor of history and associate vice chancellor for Academic Diversity.

“ENHANCE is an inspiring example of a program that seeks to alleviate the disproportionate burdens that underrepresented faculty face in ways that are simple but effective, giving these talented scholars the support they need to advance in their fields of research and contribute to the university’s mission, said Lorelle Espinosa, Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “It is our hope that this program can serve as a model for where the university can target its efforts in the future.”

During the pandemic, female faculty in particular have experienced decreased networking opportunities and decreased research productivity, both a direct result of increased dependent care demands, according to a March report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. The report warned that unless measures were taken to improve the engagement and hiring of female faculty, recent progress in removing structural barriers to promoting faculty diversity would be undone.

The ENHANCE initiative comprises two interventions:

  • Research Development Support — Enhanced and individualized professional support, supplemented by trainings and grant-writing retreats.
  • Family Support-Caring Responsibilities Support — Grants would be given to help pay for dependent care, allowing faculty members to free up time for research and reduce the stress associated with caring for others during the pandemic. Post-COVID-19, with continued subsidies for dependent care, faculty members could attend research conferences, participate in collaborative work, and devote uninterrupted time to grant and manuscript preparation.

In their award letter to UC Davis, grant evaluators from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation noted their appreciation for the emphasis “on what people really need at this time — help with grant writing and more child care.”

They called the proposal “a well-targeted, pragmatic and timely effort to help [underrepresented minority] STEM faculty in a post-COVID hammered world.”

The two interventions are designed to alleviate the burdens of proposal submission and the pressures of dependent care, which often disproportionately affect faculty who identify as women and people of color.

In doing so, this project will contribute to research excellence overall, to building a stronger and more inclusive community of STEM researchers, and will lead to increased faculty well-being, satisfaction and advancement.

If successful, the activities of this grant will be extended to other groups of underrepresented faculty across campus. This is especially urgent in light of the challenges that faculty are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.