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Simons Foundation Commits Nearly $5.7 Million to Support Science and Mathematics Faculty and STEM Studies at Spelman College Share a Spelman College Press Release


Spelman President Helene GayleAtlanta, GA – Today, Spelman College and the Simons Foundation announced a $5.7 million grant to Spelman to support faculty in science and mathematics. The grant will provide reduced teaching loads for 10 STEM faculty members, allowing them to increase the time spent conducting research and providing research opportunities to their students.

Spelman College, in Atlanta, Georgia, is the oldest historically Black women’s liberal arts college in the United States. Nearly forty years ago, the college committed itself to becoming the nation’s principal educator of Black women in STEM fields. Over the past 10 years the National Science Foundation has ranked Spelman as the leading producer of Black women who complete doctorates in STEM fields. The College is working to double the number of Spelman graduates who earn doctorates in STEM fields.

“The Simons Foundation is hoping to help Spelman address the disparity in the experience of its faculty compared to that of most other research institutions,” says David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation.

“This differential in the Spelman faculty experience not only slows its faculty’s career development, it denies students the opportunity to participate in research themselves during their undergraduate years.”

Spelman has strengthened its research infrastructure over the past 20 years and assembled a body of distinguished faculty in STEM. However, its faculty members often shoulder greater teaching loads than typical at top research universities, while also investing a great deal of time in mentoring Spelman’s students, which limits the amount of time faculty are able to devote to research.

“Thank you to the Simons Foundation for your generous support which will help our science and mathematics faculty strike a more optimal balance between their teaching responsibilities and research goals,” said Helene Gayle, M.D., MPH., president of Spelman College. “As the #1 producer of Black women with Ph.Ds in STEM, this is a gift that will keep on giving through the enrichment of our students’ STEM studies experience.”

The Simons Foundation grant will provide up to three years of support to faculty members - 7 junior and 3 senior faculty. The aim is to take a holistic approach to enriching Spelman’s research enterprise: The mix of junior and senior faculty will provide junior faculty with intellectual thought partners and opportunities for collaboration and mentorship within the college. Spelman students will be able to participate in research projects during the academic year, to further advance their success in STEM fields and graduate study.

Priority funding will go to researchers in areas that align with the grantmaking interests of the Simons Foundation, which include mathematics, physics, and computational within the natural sciences.

In addition to the reduced teaching load, the grant will provide faculty members with funding for supplies, publications, and travel expenses to attend conferences and to join other Simons Foundation investigators at annual meetings at the foundation. A central goal is to foster connections between Spelman researchers and the other researchers supported by the Simons Foundation — in particular those at the foundation’s Flatiron Institute in New York.

“We hope Spelman scientists and Flatiron scientists will identify potential projects and collaborations, where each brings unique expertise to the table. We intend that the partnership between Simons and Spelman will deepen and flourish over time,” Spergel says.

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About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by the U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 51 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 19 for undergraduate teaching, No. 5 for social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 16th year among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal has ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU, and a program to increase the number of Black women Ph.D.s in economics. New majors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, and collaborations have been established with MIT’s Media Lab, the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones.

To learn more, please visit spelman.edu and @spelmancollege on social media.



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