Over the past several years, the SciWomen Office has worked closely with university leaders and female faculty in the sciences to provide resources and support for engagement and success in the sciences at Rutgers. Throughout the years, one of the biggest themes that rose to the surface for Rutgers faculty was a sense of isolation and loss of productivity given the lack of infrastructure and opportunity to mobilize efforts across disciplines, schools, and campuses. Faculty expressed the need for a stronger sense of community where opportunities for informal mentoring, information sharing, and cross disciplinary connections and research collaborations could be fostered.
In the Summer of 2012, when three members from the SciWomen Office attended the 13th Annual Faculty Learning Community (FLC) Developers' & Facilitators’ Institute for Designing, Implementing, and Leading Faculty Learning Communities: Enhancing the Teaching-Learning Culture on Your Campus, we learned how evidence shows that faculty learning communities (FLC) increase faculty interest in teaching and learning and provide safety and support for faculty to investigate, attempt, assess, and adopt new (to them) methods.
While Rutgers was successful in building similar types of community groups for students (i.e. living learning communities), there was nothing in place for faculty or staff. We were inspired by the potential of using FLCs to not only build a community for faculty – but to do it in a way that strongly supported and organically incorporated the universities mission of outstanding teaching, research, and community engagement.
In the spring 2013, SciWomen applied for a Institute of Women’s Leadership’s (IWL) Women in Health Initiative grant. To focus on the upcoming integration of the medical school, we proposed to create mechanisms for collaborations across Rutgers and legacy UMDNJ schools among faculty on topics related to women and health. We received support from two principal investigators: Gloria Bachmann, professor from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School's OB/GYN and Karen Schindler, assistant professor of Genetics (School of Arts and Sciences).
At Rutgers, we've developed a FLC model that is a hybrid of the FLC work done by Miami University as well as the University of Michigan's STRIDE Committee model. The FLC's cohort on 2015-2016 voted to change the name from Faculty Learning Community to Faculty Leading Change to more accurate reflect the goals and mission of the program.
Supported by this mini-grant from IWL and in partnership with the grant’s PIs, the SciWomen Office invited tenure and tenure-track female faculty and leadership university-wide from a diverse range of academic disciplines (science, engineering, education, health and social sciences) to participate in Rutgers’ first FLC. In academic year 2013-2014, we created and implemented our first FLC around the topic Advancing Women in Academic Sciences.