The NSF ADVANCE program is designed to foster gender equity through a focus on the identification and elimination of organizational barriers that impede the full participation and advancement of diverse faculty in academic institutions. Organizational barriers that inhibit equity may exist in policies, processes, practices, and the organizational culture and climate.

ADVANCE "Catalyst" awards provide support for institutional equity assessments and the development of five-year faculty equity strategic plans at academic institutions of higher education. 

Institutional Context


George Mason University recognizes the importance of, and has long articulated a strong commitment to, diversity which is reflected in George Mason’s exceptionally diverse student body. The diversity of George Mason faculty, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) faculty, lags well behind that of the student body, both in terms of the representation of women and of people from underrepresented racial/ethnic minority (URM) groups.

The Mason ADVANCE Catalyst team will undertake a significant, systematic collection and evaluation of quantitative and qualitative data for STEM tenure-track and full-time term (contingent) faculty with attention to intersectional analyses to pinpoint where change efforts are needed. The focus will be on recruitment and hiring, and renewal/reappointment, promotion, and tenure (RPT). This systematic analysis will inform meaningful, sustained institutional change.

Grant Overview


  1. Are there racial/gender disparities in recruitment, hiring, retention, promotion, and tenure of tenure track/tenured or term STEM faculty at Mason? 
  2. What institutional practices, policies, and cultural norms create and/or reinforce these disparities?
  3. What effective practices should Mason implement to address the disparities across STEM faculty?

Data Sets

The Mason Catalyst Team will analyze data from the College of Engineering and Computing (CEC), College of Science (COS), College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and other Mason colleges and schools from four key areas: (1) institutional culture (Harvard’s Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education-COACHE Faculty Satisfaction Survey Data, Mason Quality of Work Life Data) and Gallup Faculty and Staff Experience Data); (2) recruitment and hiring (HR applicant pool data and search committee data); (3) retention (COACHE Faculty Exit and Retention Survey Data, HR faculty separation data, COVID-19 impact data); and (4) equity (HR historic faculty salary data, startup funding data and study leave data).


Presentations and Publications

Academic Presentations

  1.  M. Rivera-Sanchez, T. Lopez-Bunyasi, J. Lester, L. McCue, G. Urgessa, S. Arrington, and P. Healey. “Poster: NSF ADVANCE Catalyst—A Data Driven Critical Needs Assessment of STEM Faculty Recruitment, Retention, and Promotion for George Mason University,” The 1st Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) Conference, George Mason University, Arlington, VA, October 2022.
  2. McCue, L., Urgessa, G., Lopez Bunyasi, T., Healey, P., Hill, P., Lester, J., and Rivera, M., “Work-in-progress: A data gathering effort on STEM faculty startup packages for assessing equity in recruitment,” Minorities in Engineering Division, American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, Baltimore, MD, June, 2023.
  3. Rivera, M. Lester, J., Healey, P. W. , Wonch Hill, P., Urgessa, G., Lopez Bunyasi, T., McCue, L.  & Baily, S. “A Playbook for Procuring Faculty DEI Data at a Large Public University.”​Early Stage Innovation Paper: ​2023 ADVANCE Equity in STEM Convening. Durham, NC, June 2023.

Peer Reviewed Publications

McCue, L., Urgessa, G., Lopez Bunyasi, T., Healey, P., Hill, P., Lester, J., and Rivera, M., “Work-in-progress: A data gathering effort on STEM faculty startup packages for assessing equity in recruitment,” Minorities in Engineering Division, American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, Baltimore, MD, June, 2023.



The George: Mason Team receives NSF Catalyst Advance

A team of George Mason University employees dedicated to building and maintaining more diverse faculty and staff has secured a National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE Catalyst grant for just under $300,000 to help them with the process.

The goal of this grant program is to advance representation of women in higher education science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs and careers. For more than two decades, the NSF has invested millions of dollars to support these catalyst-funded projects at more than 100 institutions of higher education and STEM-related nonprofit organizations.


Grant's Leadership

Principal Investigators' Team

Supriya Baily  Professor of Education, Co-Director for the Center for International Education
Tehama Lopez Bunyasi Associate Professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Carter School
Leigh McCue Associate Professor and Department Chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Milagros Rivera (PI) Director of Faculty Engagement & Wellbeing, Office of Faculty & Affairs
Girum Urgessa Associate Professor, Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering, College of Engineering and Computing
 Dr. Patricia Wonch Hill External Research Partner, Research Associate Professor, Center for Science Mathematics & Computer Education, Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Patrick Willette Healey Graduate Assistant, phealey@gmu.edu
Shinita Arrington Project Coordinator, saring@gmu.edu

Mason Leadership Committee

Ariela Sofer    Divisional Dean, Volgenau School of Engineering (CEC) 
Fernando Miralles    Dean, College of Science (COS)
Gesele Durham    Vice Provost, Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning (OIEP)
Kenneth Ball    Dean, College of Engineering and Computing (CEC)
Kimberly K. Eby    Vice Provost, Faculty Affairs and Development, Office of the Provost
Pat Gillevet    Associate Dean for Research, College of Science (COS)
Gurdip Singh    Divisional Dean, College of Engineering and Computing (CEC) 
Sharnnia Artis     Vice President, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion 
John Sanders    Interim Vice President,  Human Resources (HR)

Internal Steering Committee

Chris Carr  Chief Diversity Officer, College of Engineering and Computing, (CEC)
Chrystal A.George Mwangi Associate Professor in the Higher Education Program (CHSS)
James Kinter  Professor for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies & Chair, Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences, College of Science, College of Science, (COS) 
Jamie Lester Former Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs and Strategic Initiatives in the College of Humanities and Professor in the Higher Education Program at GMU, Vice Dean of Academic Affairs at The Johns Hopkins School of Education
Jessica Rosenberg Associate Professor, Physics and Astronomy (COS) 
Kamaljeet Sanghera College of Engineering and Computing CEC)
Kate Astor  HR & Payroll 
Kelly Knight Term Professor, Forensic Science Program (COS) 
Paula Danquah-Brobby Director of DEI, College of Engineering and Computing (COS)
Monique van Hoek Professor, National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases, College of Engineering and Computing (COS)