Atlanta, GA – Today, Spelman College and the Simons Foundation announced a $5.7 million grant to Spelman to support faculty in science and mathematics. The grant will provide reduced teaching loads for 10 STEM faculty members, allowing them to increase the time spent conducting research and providing research opportunities to their students.
Spelman College, in Atlanta, Georgia, is the oldest historically Black women’s liberal arts college in the United States. Nearly forty years ago, the college committed itself to becoming the nation’s principal educator of Black women in STEM fields. Over the past 10 years the National Science Foundation has ranked Spelman as the leading producer of Black women who complete doctorates in STEM fields. The college is working to double the number of Spelman graduates who earn doctorates in STEM fields.
“The Simons Foundation is hoping to help Spelman address the disparity in the experience of its faculty compared to that of most other research institutions,” says David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation. “This differential in the Spelman faculty experience not only slows its faculty’s career development, it denies students the opportunity to participate in research themselves during their undergraduate years.”
Spelman has strengthened its research infrastructure over the past 20 years and assembled a body of distinguished faculty in STEM. However, its faculty members often shoulder greater teaching loads than typical at top research universities, while also investing a great deal of time in mentoring Spelman’s students, which limits the amount of time faculty are able to devote to research.
“Thank you to the Simons Foundation for your generous support which will help our science and mathematics faculty strike a more optimal balance between their teaching responsibilities and research goals,” said Helene Gayle, M.D., M.P.H., president of Spelman College. “As the #1 producer of Black women with PhDs in STEM, this is a gift that will keep on giving through the enrichment of our students’ STEM studies experience.”
The Simons Foundation grant will provide up to three years of support to faculty members – 7 junior and 3 senior faculty. The aim is to take a holistic approach to enriching Spelman’s research enterprise: The mix of junior and senior faculty will provide junior faculty with intellectual thought partners and opportunities for collaboration and mentorship within the college. Spelman students will be able to participate in research projects during the academic year, to further advance their success in STEM fields and graduate study.
Priority funding will go to researchers in areas that align with the grantmaking interests of the Simons Foundation, which include mathematics, physics, and computational within the natural sciences.
In addition to the reduced teaching load, the grant will provide faculty members with funding for supplies, publications, and travel expenses to attend conferences and to join other Simons Foundation investigators at annual meetings at the foundation. A central goal is to foster connections between Spelman researchers and the other researchers supported by the Simons Foundation — in particular those at the foundation’s Flatiron Institute in New York.
“We hope Spelman scientists and Flatiron scientists will identify potential projects and collaborations, where each brings unique expertise to the table. We intend that the partnership between Simons and Spelman will deepen and flourish over time,” Spergel says.