When Professor Emerita of Psychology Dr. Marilyn Demorest started teaching at UMBC in 1972, the university was six years old, and the psychology department had ten faculty members. As her career grew and developed, so did UMBC. By the time she retired in 2010, the school had exponentially increased in size, both in terms of enrollment and faculty hiring.
The latter was one of Demorest's many responsibilities as Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs from 1998 through her retirement. Her years of experience as both a professor and an administrator showed her the many challenges a university's faculty may face. To that end, she's created the Marilyn E. Demorest Faculty Advancement Fund, an endowment set up to support faculty members' career development.
Dr. Patrice McDermott, current Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Dr. Demorest's successor, says she's not surprised that Dr. Demorest created an endowment related to faculty advancement. Demorest trained McDermott for the job. "Her devotion to faculty was well-known, and she instilled those values in me as well," McDermott says.
As a professor, Dr. Demorest sat on several committees related to faculty promotion and tenure, and got a firsthand look at some key issues facing faculty members at such a young university. At that time, she explains, the university usually had to do more with less. Faculty often had to take on substantial service activities, which could hinder their research efforts.
She cites her work with Advance, the National Science Foundation's initiative for women in STEM fields, as the biggest influence for her gift. Through that project, she says, "we saw how innovative programs" could be effective in advancing all faculty, not just women and not just STEM faculty.
At a university as committed to innovation as UMBC, a faculty advancement grant like this one provides the resources for professors to mentor and connect with each other, and Dr. Shawn Bediako, the inaugural recipient of the award, is committed to those ideals.
As a previous recipient of an NIH career development grant, Dr. Bediako, an associate professor of psychology at UMBC, developed an interest in helping faculty define their professional and scholarly goals beyond just achieving tenure. He has also served as a mentor to junior faculty both at UMBC and at other institutions.
"I am deeply honored to be the first recipient of this award. Dr. Demorest's generous gift will provide an opportunity for me to collaborate with faculty colleagues across campus and find innovative ways to align our personal and professional goals with the institution's vision," he says. He is currently finalizing his plans for the award as the fall semester gets under way.
As the award is announced to the entire campus community, Dr. Demorest says the key word in the delivery is the "advancement" rather than "development" of faculty, and that the award will ideally expand beyond mentoring efforts. When faculty members can define and pursue their goals, whether in research or teaching, the entire university community will benefit.
"The notion is [one of] moving forward," she says, and adds, "I'm looking forward to the fund growing over time and supporting even broader programs and initiatives."
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