UVa CHARGE Program


What is an ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant?

ADVANCE grants are major awards given by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The goal of NSF’s ADVANCE program is to “increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, thereby developing a more diverse science and engineering workforce. ADVANCE programs also target women in the social, behavioral and economic (SBE) sciences.”

The largest ADVANCE awards, Institutional Transformation (IT) grants, are designed to “systemically transform institutional practices and climate at universities and colleges in order to recruit, retain and promote women in science and engineering academic careers.” Since 2001, the NSF ADVANCE program has invested over $130 million in over 100 institutions to help achieve these goals.

U.Va CHARGE, the ADVANCE program at U.Va., seeks to engage all stakeholders, across the university and beyond, in the achievement of these goals.

For more information see the NSF ADVANCE Program brochure and the NSF ADVANCE Program Information page.  

For research studies and other resources regarding the underrepresentation of women in STEM and SBE fields, please see the Research and Resources page.

Why is it so important to increase the representation and advancement of women in STEM and SBE fields?

The underrepresentation of women in STEM and SBE fields is a critical issue not only for U.Va. but for the Commonwealth and the nation at large, as the need to develop a globally competitive and diverse workforce increases.

Despite the gains that women have made in obtaining PhDs in STEM-SBE fields, for a variety of reasons they continue to be underrepresented in academe broadly, and at U.Va. specifically. This underrepresentation of women is not just an issue of fairness or equity. The curriculum that is taught, the research that is done, the health care that is given, all of these things that we do are indelibly shaped by those involved in the doing. Accordingly, broadening the participation of women in STEM-SBE fields will strengthen the University’s ability to compete in the increasingly global environment of higher education and expand the impact that U.Va. students, faculty and alumni have in the world.  U.Va. CHARGE will better enable us to achieve our aspirations as an inclusive institution, to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their gender, have the opportunity to excel.


Does U.Va.’s CHARGE grant address the particularly poor representation of women of color in STEM fields?

Yes. As our CHARGE proposal noted, “the data documents the near invisibility—or absence, in the case of African American women scientists—of underrepresented minority…women in STEM at U.Va. There are only 8 URM women (6 Asian, 2 Latina) STEM teaching and research faculty; the university’s demographic progress in STEM has primarily accrued to White women” (proposal, p.12).

Two of the U.Va. CHARGE initiatives will pay particular attention to the status, support and advancement of women of color in the STEM disciplines

The Recruitment, Search and Selection initiative “will develop a robust search, selection, and hiring effort that will actively engage the University community as a whole…to cultivate women…with a strong focus on increasing the number of URM candidates and hires [italics added]. Central resources will help to recruit and fund such strategic hires, ADVANCE grants of up to $1,500 per search would help to augment travel and outreach resources who commit to extra cultivation and nomination efforts” (proposal, p.18).

This initiative will also support the development of an interactive, online and community-based search and selection tool designed to educate faculty members about current research and best practices in faculty search committees. This “search committee portal” will have a special focus on the recruitment, hiring and retention of women of color in STEM.

Initiative 5 will establish an ADVANCE Enhancement Fellows small grants program for women STEM faculty. Awardees may apply for funds to launch interdisciplinary collaborations, to provide bridge resources between grants, to prepare their portfolios for tenure or promotion or to extend their networks by travel to international conferences or to visit collaborators. We will strongly encourage under-represented [women] faculty…to submit portfolios to participate in this program” (proposal, p.19).


What are the goals of U.Va. ADVANCE?

To increase the numbers of all women, especially from underrepresented groups, on the faculty in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and in the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

To engage as a community of faculty and administrative leaders to identify and ameliorate the structural and cultural barriers to women’s full participation in academic STEM careers at U.Va.

The U.Va. ADVANCE program builds on other successful ADVANCE programs such as Michigan’s STRIDE and West Virginia University’s WVU PRIDE project. These programs have centered their efforts on departmental transformation and on developing male allies to support women colleagues’ change efforts. It will use a complex diversity framework to examine gender, race/ethnicity and social class as dimensions of the organizational culture and structure within which science and engineering faculty interact and conduct their scholarship.

How will U.Va. ADVANCE meet these goals?

U.Va. ADVANCE has five initiatives designed to meet the overall goals of the program.

  • Initiative 1: Departmental Diversity and Action Transformation (DDAT) will strengthen and support departmental efforts to create a positive environment that maximizes focus, creativity, and career advancement for all faculty, especially women. We will utilize departmental grants, education about and promotion of best practices, workshops, and equity consultants as means to this end.

  • Initiative 2: Reimagined Spaces – Voices and Visibilityaims to increase the positive visibility and sense of belonging of STEM and SBE women in the social and physical environment across Grounds, via conferences, on-Grounds research, and an oral history project culminating in a curated exhibit.

  • Initiative 3: ADVANCE Tournament of Ideas will stimulate the development of unique approaches to transforming structures, cultures, individual or group behavior, policies or practices that will enable U.Va. and other universities to be more effective in reaching, recruiting and nurturing the talent pool of STEM and SBE women.

  • Initiative 4: Recruitment, Search and Selection will support the development of an interactive online tool for faculty search committees to strengthen search, selection, and hiring efforts at U.Va., with a strong focus on increasing the number of underrepresented minority (URM) woman candidates and hires.

  • Initiative 5: ADVANCE Enhancement Fellows program will provide small grants to support STEM and SBE women’s research and scholarship. Women faculty from underrepresented groups and mid-career faculty seeking promotion will be strongly encouraged to apply.


How will we know that we are successful?

U.Va. ADVANCE has ambitious goals and is committed to rigorous assessment of progress toward those goals, as required by NSF.  To that end the grant provides for both internal and external evaluation. Evaluators will utilize quantitative and qualitative methods, and assessment activities will be tailored to the primary goals of the respective initiatives.

We will post institutional data, including faculty numbers, periodically throughout the five years of the grant, on the U.Va. ADVANCE Web site.


Why did U.Va. get this grant?

ADVANCE Institutional Transformation (IT) grants are only awarded under certain conditions. The universities or colleges must:

  • Already have demonstrated the ability to advance women in STEM and SBE fields
  • Have the capacity to:
    • carry out comprehensive programs for institution-wide change in these arenas
    • Disseminate the innovative tools and systems they have created to the broader higher education community
    • Incorporate, sustain and institutionalize changes after funding period.

  The University of Virginia, therefore, joins a distinguished cadre of institutions that have received ADVANCE IT grants in the past, including Cornell, University of Michigan, Virginia Tech, University of Washington, Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue, and University of Wisconsin.

U.Va. ADVANCE team members are nationally recognized as leaders and investigators, both in their academic disciplines and in arenas that relate more specifically to the work of the grant, including faculty development, leadership training, diversity initiatives, innovation and the underrepresentation of women in STEM and SBE fields.


Who is involved in overseeing the program?

Principal Investigators (PIs) for the grant include Gertrude Fraser, the lead PI, Program Director and Co-PI Pamela Norris, and Co-PIs Joanne Cohoon and Sophie Trawalter.

Dorothe Bach, Archie Holmes, Sharon Hostler, Dinko Počanić and Mary Lou Soffa are senior personnel.

Program Evaluation will be provided internally by Karen Inkelas, assisted by a postdoctoral fellow, and externally by Pat Freitag.

We are in the process of hiring a Program Manager.

See the People page and the Organizational Chart for more details.


How is the program funded and how long will it last?

The program is funded with a National Science Foundation ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant of $3,017,226 spread over the five year period from October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2017.


Is ADVANCE an acronym?

No. Even though it is usually presented all in capitals, it simply refers to advancing women in STEM and SBE fields.


What do STEM, SBE and URM stand for?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. SBE stands for social, behavioral and economic sciences and URM stands for underrepresented minorities.


What other institutions have received Institutional Transformation grants?

As of October 2012, ADVANCE IT awards have been made in five rounds (2001, 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2012) to 42 institutions. A complete list of awardees, by round of funding, can be found here. The most complete information about ADVANCE awardees and initiatives can be found at the ADVANCE Portal Web site.


Will men be included in this program?

Yes. Achieving true diversity requires that both women and men honor each other and work together. Men are actively engaged in U.Va. ADVANCE and work in partnership with women, both on the Implementation Team and in the broader ADVANCE community.

How can I get involved?

This is an ambitious effort that will require the assistance of many! If you are interested in getting involved, we welcome your participation. Please send an email to the team at ADVANCE@virginia.edu. If there is a particular initiative that interests you, please let us know. If you have a specific skill or experience to offer the team, let us know. You don't have to commit to the 5-year project—we welcome volunteers at all points along the journey.



© Copyright 2012-2014 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia

This is an ambitious effort that will require the assistance of many! If you are interested in getting involved, we welcome your participation. Please send an email to the team at uvacharge@virginia.edu. Feedback and suggestions are also welcome.

U.Va. CHARGE Program | Rice Hall 85 Engineer's Way | P.O. Box 400239 | Charlottesville, VA 22904