THRIVE launches semester of learning opportunities

THRIVE@ECU, an initiative funded by the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program, has officially launched and includes several events during the spring semester.

The official launch on March 9 featured Dr. Beth Mitchneck, former NSF ADVANCE program officer and professor emerita at the University of Arizona, who addressed “Gender Equity in the Academy – ECU Style.” She highlighted success stories from institutions around the country that have implemented ADVANCE, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this month, and outlined how the lessons learned can be applied at East Carolina University.

“What’s really exciting about ADVANCE programs is that they are meant to create lasting structural change,” Mitchneck said. While there is a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), “it isn’t just about STEM; it’s about empowering your entire campus to make effective and lasting change.”

THRIVE — ECU’s adaptation of the ADVANCE program — stands for Towards Hiring, Resources, Inclusion, Value and Excellence. It addresses biases entrenched in faculty recruitment, hiring and advancement. By implementing evidence-based strategies, THRIVE will change the institutional culture, build support systems, and change institutional structures to remove barriers and increase accountability. These efforts will empower all ECU women to reach their highest potential and thrive.

The project is funded by a three-year, $999,074 grant from NSF.

Students participate in a chemistry lab in the Science and Technology Building in 2019. (Photo taken pre-COVID-19 by Rhett Butler)

The next event on the THRIVE calendar is a “Picture a Scientist” film screening and STEMinism panel discussion outside the Main Campus Student Center from 4-7 p.m. on March 16.

The film chronicles the journey of three women scientists, shining the light on what it is like to be a woman in STEM. Following the film, ECU faculty members will talk about their own experiences in a moderated panel discussion. The event is free, but masks and pre-registration are required.

Two roundtable events will further the discussion: Women in STEM on March 24 and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Faculty in STEM on April 15.

The Advocates and Allies component of THRIVE will start with a two-hour interactive workshop, offered in two time slots on March 19.

“That’s a workshop that’s for men only, and it’s to give them an understanding of what gender equity is, the status at ECU, and some things that they can do to help promote gender equity,” said Dr. Stephanie George of the ECU Department of Engineering, a co-principal investigator on the project.

Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson, THRIVE principal investigator, said diversity is critical in the field of higher education.

“If you systematically exclude people, you are also systematically excluding ideas, competencies, experiences and talents,” he said. “If we’re to be this marketplace of ideas that we profess, then only through inclusion can we really yield maximum success, so we’re devoted to that. To create this inclusive and welcoming environment that we want, and that we need, we require all the allies and advocates that we can muster.”

Finally, on May 5 the team will dedicate the Bloxton House, THRIVE’s physical space on campus.

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