Dr. Rodica Lisnic is a visiting assistant professor and researcher in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Arkansas. Her research focus is on investigating gender and race inequality, institutional policies, and practices in the context of higher education institutions.
Lisnic is a member of the fourth ARC Network Virtual Visiting Scholar (VVS) cohort. The VVS program provides a unique opportunity for select scholars across disciplines to pursue research meta-analysis, synthesis, and big data curation on topics crucial to STEM faculty equity.
Her interest in STEM equity work grew out of a professional background in sociology and public policy, coupled with personal experiences that piqued a curiosity about social/institutional structures and the mechanisms used to maintain them. She saw the VVS program as a good opportunity to expand her research and contribute to an area that had not yet been explored.
“It helped me accomplish my goal of conducting a qualitative study on a topic I am very interested in. I am still amazed at how much I could accomplish within a short period of time, especially given the fact that I was teaching full-time,” she says, and credits the support and mentoring she received through the VVS program.
Lisnic’s focus has traditionally been on how institutional policies and practices influence women’s work outcomes. With her VVS project, however, she took a different approach. “Departmental or institutional practices can often be responsible for creating a work environment that isn’t conducive to women’s success. Instead of looking at the practices themselves, I’m looking at how women of color faculty in STEM respond to the practices,” she says.
“What I’m studying is the agency and ingenuity of women in finding ways to become successful and overcome systemic and structural barriers. Highlighting stories of persistence is important as they provide examples of motivation and inspiration for faculty members who are marginalized by academia.”
Lisnic is using her VVS project methodology in her sociology courses to help students learn about research methods and institutional inequalities, and she’s building upon her VVS work in several new projects, including a proposal that focuses on women of color and foreign-born women faculty in STEM and their experiences with balancing family and work responsibilities, and another that focuses on how women of color faculty in STEM navigate the expectations for achieving tenure.
Lisnic believes one of the main takeaways from her project is the fact that women of color faculty in STEM spend a lot of time and effort navigating complex gendered and racialized structures and relationships in the workplace which undermine their academic goals. “The idea is that everyone, including those in academia, and the community would benefit more from women’s skills and talents if their work time and efforts were directed solely to their scientific pursuits.”