A nine-person team of female faculty members from the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department has received a 2023-2024 Mutual Mentoring Award from UMass ADVANCE to support a collaborative effort to build an intensive peer-support network for women academics in the department. Their project is titled “Women in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering: A Relay Race to Mentorship Success.”

The MIE team is led by Gina Olson and includes Erin Baker, Muge Capan, Chaitra Gopalappa, Meghan Huber, Ana Muriel, Shannon Roberts, Yanfei Xu, and Golbon Zakeri.

“Through the power of collaboration, UMass ADVANCE provides knowledge-driven research and solutions for faculty equity,” explains the organization’s website. “Priority mentoring areas for these competitive grants include projects aimed at helping faculty build inclusive mentoring communities, engage in collaborative research teams, and participate in equitable and shared decision-making.”

According to the MIE team’s ADVANCE proposal, the Women in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering project seeks to build a peer-support network, research partnerships, and a mutual feeling of belonging among the female faculty in the MIE department “in spite of logistical challenges of our separate locations, different ranks, and specialties.”

As the proposal explains, the nine-person team specifically plans a four-pronged approach within the MIE department. The team will develop peer-mentoring ties within ranks and among the ranks. It will create mutual-support mechanisms “for challenges inherent to faculty life.” It will cultivate social ties among female faculty members “in order to build a feeling of belonging and reduce isolation.” Finally, the team will attempt to improve the experience of future new female faculty as they start within the department.

According to its website, “ADVANCE cultivates faculty equity, inclusion, and success by providing the resources, recognition, and relationship-building that are critical for equitable and successful collaboration in the 21st-century academy.”

Each UMass ADVANCE grant is funded by a five-year (2018-23), $3.1-million, National Science Foundation grant to support gender and intersectional equity for faculty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The UMass ADVANCE program draws on the power of collaboration to support equity among faculty by gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, and nationality. (May 2023)