By WSU Marketing and Creative Services
 
 

Professors Amit Bandyopadhyay, left, and Susmita
Bose with their sons, Shohom and Aditya, in 2008.
(Photo by WSU Photo Services) See a video here.
PULLMAN, Wash. – A new program specifically designed to benefit faculty during family or personal emergencies is proving to be a major plus to Washington State University as a whole.
 
The ADVANCE at WSU Transitions Program supports tenured and tenure-track professors at critical points in their personal and professional lives to help them maintain high work standards and focus on career goals. Perhaps not as obvious, though, is what the program is doing for the broader university.
 
“It can be beneficial both ways,” explained Susmita Bose, a professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and affiliate professor in the Department of Chemistry.
 
Easing the impact of unexpected absence
She made good use of a Transitions grant over the past several months when two close family members died, requiring her to return to her native India several times. The funds helped ensure that her classes and laboratory duties were covered by a fully qualified post-doctoral associate – someone who already was quite familiar with the teaching and research topics.
 
Multipurpose Transitions grants, the first of which were approved in 2009 as part of the larger National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded ADVANCE at WSU effort, promise longer-term benefits, too. Nancy Magnuson, who directs ADVANCE at WSU from her Pullman office, believes everyone wins when the impact of unexpected personal events is eased.
 
“The program helps the institution because faculty are able to succeed – which is what the institution wanted to see, considering the investment made in hiring them in the first place,” she said. “I would like to see the institution be able to step in and help faculty – both women and men – when unexpected personal issues and responsibilities threaten to interfere with their jobs.”
 
Training, retaining diverse faculty
In Bose’s case, a small Transitions grant also helped cover her classes when she recently attended high-level professional conferences in Washington, D.C. But the program is particularly well suited to helping faculty members and the university cope with even longer term situations, such as maternity leave.
 
“When our women faculty go through pregnancy, it’s not always easy just to hire a part-time faculty member to cover for five or six months,” said Bose. In such cases, Transitions assistance through the ADVANCE at WSU Work/Life Initiative could help support a post-doctoral research associate as a teaching fellow, which may also provide an unintended side benefit: valuable teaching experience.
 

Related:
 
See an earlier article about faculty aided by the Transitions grant here.
 
See a video of Bose and Bandyopadhyay here.
Over the long term, the grants are intended to help improve the climate for faculty at all levels, resulting in the retention and advancement of a diverse faculty, which in turn provides a deeper and wider pool of role models for students. As this chain of events leads to more students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, it also helps address a national need.
 
“The NSF-backed ADVANCE Institutional Transformation program is helping WSU recruit and retain a diverse faculty of the highest caliber – not only within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines but across the entire university,” said WSU Provost and Executive Vice President Warwick Bayly.
 
Spreading the word
Because the ADVANCE at WSU program organically supports the broader goals of the university, Bose hopes Transitions assistance eventually can be extended to faculty in areas beyond the target STEM groups.
 
For now, she said, “We need to spread the word so that more faculty members are aware of it. With time it will be familiar to more people, and institutionalizing some of these things will benefit all faculty members at WSU.”
 
For more information on the ADVANCE at WSU program, including how to qualify for a Transitions grant, visit www.advance.wsu.edu or contact Magnuson at advance@wsu.edu or 509-335-9735.