News Archive

posted 12/01/05

The Earth Institute Partners with Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science to Promote Faculty Diversity

The Earth Institute and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) have joined together to ensure that a rich, diverse faculty becomes a mainstay of research and education at Columbia University. The new diversity initiative represents another step in what has become one of Columbia’s highest priorities: the integration of women and men from a range of backgrounds into all aspects of academic life.

In partnership with the Earth Institute’s NSF ADVANCE program, which is charged with increasing the advancement of women scientists and engineers at Columbia, the Office of the Dean of SEAS is providing supplemental funding to support the recruiting of diverse faculty, students and staff currently underrepresented at the School, as well as the recruitment of faculty members who have shown an exemplary commitment to equal opportunity in their research, teaching, service and mentoring activities. ADVANCE will match the funds provided by SEAS and create other opportunities for women at the School of Engineering and Applied Science to encourage leadership and continued research productivity. ADVANCE is funded by a five-year $4.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

“We are enthusiastic about taking this concrete step,” said SEAS Dean Zvi Galil. “We hope that a diverse faculty will become a hallmark of SEAS and its contributions to engineering and applied science.”

To implement this initiative, Dean Galil has appointed a committee, chaired by Patricia Culligan, professor of civil engineering and engineering mechanics, to oversee diversity activities within the school. A full-time diversity resource officer will be recruited to provide SEAS with the ongoing technical and administrative support needed to ensure the initiative’s success.

“SEAS is demonstrating its commitment to tackle a complex challenge that affects the Academy at large,” said Robin Bell, Director of the ADVANCE program. “This initiative will address the chokepoints in the pipeline that inhibit the recruitment and advancement of outstanding women and minorities.”

“There are a variety of push and pull factors that influence the choices of women and minority engineers,” said Patricia Culligan, professor and chair of the new SEAS Diversity Initiatives Committee. “We look forward to working with ADVANCE to identify these factors and to develop strategies for building a more inclusive institution.”

The diversity initiative will be officially launched on January 31, 2006 at an event co-hosted by Columbia University Provost Alan Brinkley and Dean Galil. Charles Vest, President Emeritus and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at M.I.T., will give the keynote address. A recognized champion of diversity, Vest will discuss the lessons he learned as a catalyst for institutional change at M.I.T.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines — earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences — and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor. For more information, visit