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SEEDS Showcases Its Successes

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    President Julio Frenk gets a summary of a You Choose leadership project from Wangda Zuo, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering.

    President Julio Frenk gets a summary of a You Choose leadership project from Wangda Zuo, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering.

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 7, 2016) – When Kathryn Tosney arrived at the University of Miami ten years ago as the new chair of its Department of Biology, one of the first things she noticed was the scarcity of women faculty in the sciences who worked at UM.

    “We were well below the national average,” recalled Tosney, “and few UM programs addressed career skills for women—or for men.”

    It was then that she realized something needed to be done to correct the problem. But the only question was: How?

    At the University of Michigan, where Tosney served on the faculty before coming to Miami, she collaborated with one of the initial recipients of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Advance for Women in Science grant.

    “So I thought, lets start with the sciences and with the women,” she recalled. “I began visiting other science schools and talking with the women about their issues, about their ideas, about possible NSF Advance solutions.”

    One might say that was the moment when the seed for a new UM initiative aimed at improving diversity and career development among faculty was germinated.

    Today, A SEED for Success—formerly known as SEEDS: Scientists and Engineers Expanding Diversity and Success—is celebrating its ninth year of orchestrating programs that address implicit bias, aid recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented minorities, and foster career development, diversity, and inclusion.

    With UM President Julio Frenk and Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc in attendance, the initiative held its seventh annual networking dinner at the Newman Alumni Center on April 5, showcasing some of the investigator-initiated SEEDS You Choose leadership projects that help provide career-support resources for faculty. Since 2009, sixty-eight such awards have been given to UM investigators.

    Among this year’s notable You Choose projects: A daylong workshop organized by the Rosenstiel School’s Lisa Beal and Amy Clement to advance mentor-mentee relationships among faculty and graduate students; a social science and medicine speaker series launched by the College of Arts and Sciences’ Justin Stoler to bridge faculty from sociology, communications, public health, and anthropology; and a grant-writing workshop by the College of Engineering’s Noel Ziebarth and Abhishek Prasad to help junior faculty in the Biomedical Engineering Department write successful grants.

    “As SEEDS expands its constituency, we seek to continue enabling such leaders throughout the University,” said Tosney. “This year we have begun to extend SEEDS You Choose leadership awards to other departments and schools.”

    During the dinner event, LeBlanc, who was instrumental in getting SEEDS off the ground at UM nine years ago with initial NSF funding, said SEEDS programs are being “successfully incorporated within schools where they support faculty success and retention and help to transform institutional practices and climate.”

    He noted the Mentoring and Grantsmanship Program headed by Professor of Cell Biology Mary Lou King at the Miller School of Medicine, which has resulted in a 29 percent success rate in grant funding awards—10 percent higher than the school’s average. “For researchers in the medical school, during an era when competition is growing and funds are shrinking, survival rests on grantsmanship,” said LeBlanc. “Multiple SEEDS programs that address grant writing have been encompassed within a Clinical and Translational Science Institute grant where they are greatly enhancing faculty success.”

    Frenk, who has called for greater diversity, inclusion and belonging since he arrived on campus, praised SEEDS for its successes and called for equal opportunity not only in higher education but beyond. He said he has a “360-degree view of women,” having followed in the footsteps of a “great woman,” Donna Shalala, and worked under two female bosses before he came to UM. He also noted he has a twin sister, a spouse who is a noted health economics researcher, a grandmother who lived to be 106, and two daughters.

    Tosney said SEEDS also hosts distinguished lecturers and workshops on leadership, conflict resolution, and writing.

    “I give talks on a number of issues,” she said, noting a presentation on implicit bias she gives to search committee chairs each year. “We cannot help having a bias, but we can help our adult behavior. We can overcome our background,” said Tosney. “I grew up in a tiny town in a very homogenous environment. I did not see my first black person until I was 12. When the first two black children enrolled in our high school, their house mysteriously burned down. They left town. My mind no longer lives in that town…the issue is recognizing [bias] and deciding what to do about it. I know what I want to do: Lets change the U.”


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