NSF: Partnerships for Adaptation, Implementation and Dissemination

This project addresses the need to understand how universities can most effectively create institutional environments that support the success of women scholars. We will leverage the significant work done at institutions that have implemented Institutional Transformation (IT) projects under the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program. Individual institutions have assessed and chronicled their own goals, strategies, and processes. This study takes a cross-institutional, analytical and synthetic approach to extract the lessons, best practices, and organizational strategies that support the success of women scholars in STEM fields.

The study addresses the following question: What has been learned about the effectiveness and long-term viability of organizational change efforts to create institutional environments that are conducive to the success of women scholars, particularly in STEM fields?

The sub-questions are:

  • What strategies and processes have worked well in creating institutional environments that are conducive to the success of women scholars, especially in STEM fields? Have some strategies worked particularly well in regard to specific goals?
  • Why have these strategies and processes worked well? Why did some not work well?
  • How does a university’s organizational culture and other institutional characteristics relate to the initial choice and ultimate effectiveness of the strategies and processes used?
  • In institutions where change strategies and processes have resulted in significant outcomes in terms of creating environments that are conducive to supporting the career progress of STEM women faculty, what can be learned about effective theories of change and effective strategies and processes? That is, what lessons on “best practices” can be learned from ADVANCE programs that have had an impact?

The three-year study will use a mixed-methods approach, guided by conceptual frameworks concerning organizational change and faculty work. Nineteen institutions that have held ADVANCE IT awards will be surveyed, from which five will be chosen for detailed examination as case studies. Data-gathering methods include a review of project reports, a web-based survey, telephone interviews, and site visits; these largely qualitative data will be analyzed using the conceptual frameworks and organized in Change Strategy Matrices.

Intellectual Merit

The study is grounded in the literature on organizational change and faculty work and presented by a highly qualified team. It is explicitly designed to contribute both to practice and the scholarly literature. Through analysis of multiple data sets, the study will produce research findings that expand knowledge about the process of organizational transformation in higher education. Findings will contribute to knowledge of how institutions can foster environments conducive to women’s success, how specific change strategies relate to organizational impact, how institutions use explicit change theories or rationales, and how institutional context influences the impact of particular change strategies.

Broader Impact

The study will produce outcomes and deliverables that provide specific evidence-based information and detailed case examples to a wide variety of audiences: institutional leaders and change agents who seek to enhance the success of women STEM scholars; female STEM faculty who may use the study to guide their own career planning or to shape their own institutions’ policies, programs, or strategies; and scholars of higher education, gender, and organizational change.