ADVANCE Program marks 20 years of working for faculty equity


The University of Michigan’s ADVANCE Program is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with a series of workshops and a symposium to review lessons learned and provide a glimpse into the future of efforts to build and support a diverse U-M faculty.


Since 2002, the ADVANCE Program has pioneered research and programming aimed at improving faculty diversity, equity and inclusion.

Beginning with an ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant from the National Science Foundation, and transitioning to Provost’s Office funding in 2007, the nationally recognized program serves all faculty on campus in four distinct areas: recruitment, workplace climate, retention and leadership development.

“For 20 years, ADVANCE has done pathbreaking work to help faculty address concerns about bias, inequity and climate on campus. In addition to bringing change to our campus, the program contributes critical research and innovative programming to national work to improve higher education,” Provost Susan M. Collins said. “ADVANCE is an important contributor to our ongoing efforts to be an inclusive community that welcomes and respects all its members.”

The anniversary workshops and symposium will bring together external and internal speakers. “Epistemic Exclusion: Scholarly Devaluation as a Barrier to Faculty Diversity” is scheduled for noon-1:30 p.m. Feb. 4, and “Words We Use” will be 3-4:30 p.m. Feb. 16.

The “ADVANCE@20 Symposium: Celebrating research, advocacy, and action for faculty equity” will be 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. March 25.

ADVANCE Program Director Jennifer Linderman, the Pamela Raymond Collegiate Professor of Engineering, said the program’s impact over the years has been considerable, with its greatest impact yet to come.

“Our research continues to point to practices and policies that can better support a diverse faculty, fight systemic inequities, ease the impact of the pandemic, and make U-M a place where all faculty can thrive. We are working broadly across the university to advocate for and implement these changes.”

Working with Linderman to lead the program are associate directors Isis Settles, professor of psychology, Afroamerican and African studies, and of women’s and gender studies; and Deborah Rivas-Drake, Stephanie J. Rowley Collegiate Professor of Education, and professor of psychology and of education.

Shelly Conner, director of research and evaluation, said ADVANCE’s research efforts honor “the trust of our faculty who are willing to share their experiences, so that we can listen to and learn directly from them.

“Our long-standing climate studies and exit interviews of faculty who left U-M, help to identify both areas that need attention and models of excellence. Most recently, we reported on Black and Indigenous People of Color faculty retention and the impact of COVID-19 on faculty.”

Settles and Rivas-Drake are spearheading a series of additional workshops to share these new data as well as strategies for identifying and making systemic changes.

ADVANCE’s new RISE (Respect in Striving for Excellence) Committee of faculty and staff has developed case studies to address common climate issues as well as a workshop for campus leaders on cultivating anti-racist, respectful and inclusive climates in their units, an area in which many campus leaders and faculty have welcomed new resources.

“The workshop is a powerful and tremendously engaging experience that goes straight to the heart of how to effect positive changes in climate within academia. Grounded in science, the workshop provides actionable strategies that academic leaders can use and tailor to the needs of their units,” said Noel Perkins, professor of mechanical engineering.

The program also collaborates directly with new faculty members across campus by building mentorship through what are called launch committees. New tenure-track assistant professors, warmly dubbed “launchees,” have a team of mentors assigned during their first year at U-M. As of 2021, the committees have “launched” 312 new faculty, providing advice on topics ranging from publishing and student mentoring to service demands and networking.

ADVANCE’s longest-standing program, and most known to campus and nationally, is the STRIDE (Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence) Committee.

To date, more than 3,300 U-M faculty have participated in STRIDE’s workshops, learning about both individual and structural level biases that affect searches as well as evidence-based strategies to mitigate those biases. The workshops are revised annually to incorporate new scholarship and address emerging concerns.

“As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of ADVANCE, we recognize and reflect on how LSA’s engagement with the program has been instrumental in improving faculty diversity, and ultimately, our campus climate and culture,” said Anne Curzan, dean of LSA.

“Collaborating with ADVANCE has been transformative in the way we, as a college, recruit, retain and develop faculty and build true equity. There is much more work to do, and we look forward to continuing these efforts for the betterment of our college and university.”

Abby Stewart, founding director of ADVANCE and the Sandra Schwartz Tangri Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies, said the program’s 20th anniversary is a great time to celebrate the fact that “ADVANCE was and remains a remarkable village — a village of knowledgeable, dedicated and hardworking staff, students and faculty devoted to making the university the best, most welcoming, fair and inclusive environment for everyone.”


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