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Dr. Sue Rosser has spent a lifetime working in the areas of STEM, gender, and DEI. Rosser is a member of the fifth 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 STEMfaculty equity.

As a recent retiree, she enjoyed the opportunity to maintain a strong connection with the broader equity in STEM community. “I’m still involved in projects and publishing, so the timing was very helpful in facilitating my transition from active administration. The program is extremely useful and quite important. The different projects previous cohorts have pursued are things that the field really needs.”

Rosser, whose PhD is in zoology, was in her second year of postdoctoral work at the University of Madison when famed neurobiologist and feminist scholar Ruth Bleier established the Woman's Studies Program there. Rosser was asked to teach a course for the program, which led her to develop an interest in biology and STEM equity. She then took a job at Mary Baldwin College as a biology professor, but made a deal with the dean to simultaneously start a women’s studies program, thus starting an administrative track career that cultivated in retirement as Provost Emerita from San Francisco State University, after also serving as Dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech and Special Advisor for Research Development and External Partnerships for Academicand Student Affairs at the Chancellor’s Office of the California State University System. She also held several NSF grants, sat as a member of the external advisory board for more than a dozen ADVANCE grants, and served as Senior Program Officer for Women’s Programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

In fact, Rosser’s VVS project was inspired by an NSF grant. Rosser was serving as an external advisor on an ADVANCE grant where the co-PIs were eight women engineers, all of whom were relatively junior in the California State University system, and six of the eight were foreign born and foreign trained (FB/FT).  In interacting with them on thegrant and discussing their careers and various issues they were having, Rosser realized the extent to which FB/FT faculty were an understudied group.

“When I looked into it, the existing literature mostly concentrated on men and had been conducted in R1institutions. There was very little on women FB/FT STEM faculty and almost nothing on those at comprehensive universities or community colleges. I wanted to find out more, and the co-PIs were encouraging me to do so. I’ve served as a member of the ARC Network External Advisory Board since the organization’s inception, so I was well aware of the VVS program, and thought this would be a great project.”

Rosser concluded her project with several takeaways. First, the issue is an important one and quite widespread. Throughout the country, and particularly in R1 institutions, FB/FT faculty comprise over 70% of faculty in many STEM departments, particularly engineering and computer science. “We’re not talking about a small number of people. And an increasing number of them are women. Their issues aren’t the same as U.S. born/U.S. trained faculty.”

With this demographic make-up in mind, Rosser also wants people to consider the future of STEM faculty in regards to policy, global events, and socioeconomicpressures. “There are pushes and pulls in terms of the number of FB/FT faculty coming to the United States and their composition in terms of country of origin. The truth is that the US isn’t producing enough U.S.-born STEM graduates tokeep up with demand, in industry as well as academia.”

Finally, Rosser has an eye towards internal policy changes. She believes the NSF should reconsider their definition of underrepresented minorities (URM), which currently include only African-American, Hispanic, Native American/Pacific Islander. Asians are not considered an URM, which isn’t necessarily appropriate according to Rosser, who points out that Asian women aren’t represented in certain STEM disciplines in the same way as Asian men are. Furthermore, the term “Asian” itself lumps countless cultures and countries together.

“If we’re overinflating the representation of some groups and under inflating the representation of others, we’re not getting an accurate picture, clouding the issues of what to study and address.”

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