University of Delaware
Sharon Neal (left) and Anne Boylan are co-chairs of the committee that has organized the conference.

Stronger together

National conference puts focus on 'Women of Color in the Academy'

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3:37 p.m., Feb. 26, 2016--A unique and powerful gathering of researchers and advocates will converge on the University of Delaware in late April to compare notes and strengthen networks in a national conference focused on "Women of Color in the Academy: What's Next?"

The event, organized and hosted by the University's ADVANCE Institute, will be held April 29-May 1 at the Clayton Hall Conference Center. 

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The ADVANCE program, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, works to increase the number of women in academic STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math) and help them advance in their work.

UD has made these initiatives part of its "Delaware Will Shine" strategic plan and the offices of the President and the Provost are co-sponsors of the conference.

“The issue of race and gender diversity within the academy is important for every faculty member because it directly affects our missions of education, research and service," said Nancy Targett, acting president of the University since July 2015. "This conference will help us all by strengthening the faculty, who are the heart and soul of our institution.”

An early-registration discount is available until March 1. The registration deadline is April 25.

The conference is open to all who wish to attend – all backgrounds, all races, all genders and orientations, all ages, all interested.

"One of the most important things we need to recognize across the country is that this cannot be a 'women-of-color issue,'" said Emily Bonistall Postel, director of UD's ADVANCE Institute. "We have to have allies, we need people in positions of power on university campuses to hear this information. So if you're an administrator who focuses on faculty development, I want you in one of those chairs."

And not just as a spectator, but in the mix, too. The conference design may create something like a "living laboratory," as researchers connect with those whose situations they are studying.

"The hope for the conference is to bring together in a unique way the social scientists who do research on women of color in the academy with the people who are living the experience," Postel said. "There are opportunities for women of color in the academy to network and talk about mentoring. And there are many social science-based conferences where they talk about the research on this topic. This conference is a unique nexus of people who do the research and those who live the experience.

Postel says the seeds of new research projects, mentoring relationships and other collaborative efforts may be sown during the three-day event, which was organized by a committee co-chaired by Sharon Neal, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Anne Boylan, professor emerita of history.

"I’m particularly excited to see the intergenerational conversations that will unfold at the conference," Postel said. "We have a student panel and I think it is important for women who are full professors, who have been living this, to hear the experience of current undergrads. How are things the same? Where have we made significant progress? Where do we still have progress to make?"

Targett, a marine biologist who was dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment before moving into the president's office, is among those who will address the conference, speaking on "Lessons I Learned Underwater."

Keynote speakers include:

Margaret Andersen, Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Sociology, UD;

Gilda Barabino, dean of engineering, City College of New York;

Joan Ferrini-Mundy, assistant director for education and human resources, National Science Foundation (NSF);

Saundra Yancy-McGuire, assistant vice president and professor of chemistry emerita, Louisiana State University;

• Ala Qubbaj, vice provost for faculty affairs and diversity, University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley;

Denise Sekaquaptewa, professor of psychology, University of Michigan; and

Karan L. Watson, provost and executive vice president, Texas A&M University.

Filmmaker Roxana Walker-Canton will be present for a screening of her film Living Thinkers: An Autobiography of Black Women in the Ivory Tower.

The ADVANCE program, founded in 2001, has produced more than $135 million in NSF grants for projects nationwide.

Article by Beth Miller

Photos by Evan Krape and Kathy F. Atkinson

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