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Provost commissions Women in STEM Initiative, Cynthia Reinhart-King Co-Chair

Posted by on Wednesday, April 12, 2023 in News.

A new Women in STEM Initiative will address the need for a larger and more skilled U.S. workforce in science, engineering and math by inspiring, supporting and mentoring young women to develop their fullest potential within those fields.

Launched by the Office of the Provost, the initiative builds on Vanderbilt’s partnership with the STEMM Opportunity Alliance, which launched in December during an event at the White House. Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs C. Cybele Raver represented the university at the event.


Three engineering faculty are members of the nine-person committee. They are co-chair Cynthia Reinhart-King, senior associate dean for research in the School of Engineering, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering and University Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering and of Cell and Developmental Biology; Maithilee Kunda, assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering; and Julianne Vernon, associate dean for academic success and professor of the practice of chemical and biomolecular engineering. 

According to a 2023 National Science Foundation report, although women make up approximately half (51 percent) of the total U.S. population, they only constitute 35 percent of people employed in STEM fields in the United States. Additionally, women remain underrepresented among degree holders in the physical and earth sciences, math, engineering and computer science.

“Universities play a critical role in making the U.S. more secure, competitive and capable by pursuing the most pressing problems of the 21st century. This is only possible if we remove obstacles and create opportunities for women in STEM fields so that we can bring more people to the table,” Raver said. “Vanderbilt currently has more than $62 million in federal grants and $4.6 million in our own investments devoted to increasing diversity and equity in STEM. I’m excited to partner with this committee and our broader Vanderbilt community on this initiative. I am confident we will find high-impact, innovative ways to strengthen institutional pathways for anyone with the potential to excel in STEM fields.”

Maithilee Kunda

The Women in STEM Initiative will kick off with the creation of a faculty committee tasked with identifying structural issues that disproportionately affect women in STEM. The committee will conduct groundwork to identify next steps for broader faculty engagement and community-wide implementation.

“The data suggests that strategic university support is key to addressing issues of underrepresentation and marginalization of women in STEM at Vanderbilt,” said Cynthia Reinhart-King, senior associate dean for research in the School of Engineering and co-chair of the committee. “We will collaborate to identify not only the barriers that deter women from entering STEM fields, but also the obstacles that face women who are already established.”

Julianne Vernon

The Women in STEM Committee consists of an interdisciplinary mix of senior- and early-career women STEM faculty and is directly supported by the Office of Faculty Affairs and Professional Education. It is tasked with examining a range of topics from teaching evaluations to parental leave to mentoring.

“To make a meaningful investment in the careers, research and development of women STEM faculty, we must look beyond merely increasing funding,” said Duane Watson, associate provost for faculty development and committee co-chair. “Women face unique pressures and obstacles easily overlooked at the funding level, and while the committee is just the beginning of this initiative, these conversations will provide a clearer understanding of what’s required to make meaningful progress at a university-wide level.”

Raver will charge the committee in April 2023, and additional meetings will take place throughout the fall 2023 semester. Members of the committee are:

  • Cynthia Reinhart-King (co-chair) – senior associate dean for research in the School of Engineering, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering and University Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering and of Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Duane Watson (co-chair) – associate provost for faculty development, Frank W. Mayborn Professor and professor of psychology and human development
  • Anna Marie Bohmann – associate professor of mathematics
  • Isabel Gauthier – David K. Wilson Professor and professor of psychology
  • Kelly Holley-Bockelmann – Stevenson Professor of Physics
  • Maithilee Kunda – assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering
  • Deonni Stolldorf – assistant professor of nursing
  • Julianne Vernon – associate dean for academic success and assistant professor of the practice of chemical and biomedical engineering
  • Marija Zanic – associate professor of cell and developmental biology

For questions about the Women in STEM Initiative, please email


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