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Enhancing the academic careers of women in science, technology, engineering, & mathematics

Enhancing the academic careers of women in science, technology, engineering, & mathematics

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URI-ADVANCE Department Workshops: Models for Climate Change

General Goals

The ADVANCE initiative at URI includes 5 general areas of focus. By (1) increasing the numbers of women faculty, (2) providing faculty development opportunities, (3) improving the networks of support, and (4) using assessment information gathered in a climate survey, we hope to improve the academic work environment and climate not only for women faculty at URI, but for all faculty. In addition to these measures, we are (5) implementing direct efforts at climate change through a series of workshops offered to every department in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.

Climate Change Workshops

Sample Workshop:

Our direct climate change intervention efforts are based on an interweaving of two theoretical models, the Transtheoretical Model for Change (TM) and Appreciative Inquiry (AI). Our plan is to integrate TM, which provides assessment tools and strategies for interventions to promote change, and AI, which provides a vehicle within which these strategies can be employed.

Transtheoretical Model for Change

TM is a stage-based model developed in the early 1980s at the University of Rhode Island by Prochaska and DiClimente (1982) that has, for over 20 years, been a leading model in promoting individual health behavior change. Recently it has been used successfully in producing organizational change. The basic tenet of TM is that people and organizations follow measurable patterns when thinking about making major changes. The readiness to make a change occurs in stages, and different behavioral and attitudinal processes operate as people move from one stage to the next. ADVANCE has worked with Pro-Change to incorporate thier change principles into our institutional change efforts. Below is a brief review of the stages and processes:


Processes of Change

Precontemplation: not even considering making a change Processes facilitating movement to next stage:

  • consciousness raising (increasing awareness of issue through information)
  • dramatic relief (emotional engagement – visioning how good the change will be or how negative a lack of change could be)
  • environmental reevaluation (how the department/university would be improved)
Contemplation: might consider making a change in the near future Processes facilitating movement to next stage:

  • Self-reevaluation (how one’s personal situation will benefit from change)
Preparation: ready to make change Processes facilitating movement to next stage:

  • Self-liberation (personally committing to the change)
  • Social liberation (publicly committing to the change)
  • Self-reevaluation (how one’s personal situation will benefit from change)
Preparation: ready to make change Processes facilitating movement to next stage:

  • Self-liberation (personally committing to the change)
  • Social liberation (publicly committing to the change)
Action: actively engaging in change Processes facilitating movement to next stage:

  • Reinforcement management (positive rewards for making change)
  • Helping relationships (providing support and encouragement from others)
  • Counter-conditioning (not providing rewards for negative behaviors)
  • Stimulus control (ensuring that negative or old stimuli are absent)
Maintenance: have actively engaged in change for at least 6 months Processes facilitating remaining in this stage are the same as those for the Action stage


TM has developed assessment tools to locate people and organizations across stages, and intervention strategies that employ the particular processes that facilitate movement from one stage to the next. The movement from one stage of readiness for change to the next is not only dependent on what processes are at work, but also on how people weigh the pros and cons of changing (decisional balance) and how much they believe they are capable of making a change (self-efficacy). Through the assessment part of the Academic Work Environment Survey, ADVANCE is using this model to identify what stage of readiness departments are in for making a change toward engaging in key behaviors that will promote the careers of women faculty. We will use this information in designing department workshops and other campus-wide interventions.

Appreciative Inquiry

AI was developed in the 1980s by Cooperrider (Mohr & Watkins, 2002) as a model for promoting organizational change. It is based on the tenets that the process of studying a phenomenon changes it, and that organizations grow in the direction they ask questions about and focus their attention on. Through customized interview guides that focus on positive imagery about an organization’s potential, positive change is enabled. The basic principles of AI are that:


  1. organizations evolve in the direction of the images created based on the questions asked,
  2. change begins the moment questions are asked,
  3. the future that is anticipated influences current behavior,
  4. there are no limits about what questions can be asked, and
  5. the more positive the framework, the more effective the change process will be.

Through half-day AI workshops, attendees are guided through a process that involves:


ADVANCE will be using this model for departmental workshops that explore ways to produce an excellent departmental work environment for all faculty, with a particular emphasis on the needs of women faculty.

Model Integration

ADVANCE has planned a broad-based intervention that blends both change models. Our introductory efforts assumed that the URI campus was in a stage of “Precontemplation,” that is, not considering making any changes to support the careers of women STEM faculty. We began with informational presentations, describing the current status of women at URI, why change was needed, and how it would benefit the entire university and science in general (consciousness raising, dramatic relief, and environmental reevaluation). See Figure 1, Level 1.

In addition, during the series of Chairs meetings (Figure 1, Level 2), the climate survey and the workshops were introduced, and some assumptions about chairs possibly being in “Contemplation” and even in some cases in “Preparation” stages were made. Chairs were advised that their departments would generally function better through ADVANCE efforts (self-reevaluation and environmental reevaluation) and were asked to actively endorse the upcoming survey and workshops (self and social liberation).

During the initial AI workshops, departments will be grouped together as logically as possible (Figure 1, Level 3). It is assumed that participants will in general move from “Precontemplation” to “Preparation” within a 3-hour time period, recognizing that this will not occur for all participants. From choosing the positive as a focus of inquiry through designing a specific plan that will enable the identified preferred future for the department, TM processes will be used in guiding this journey. Please see thepresentation for a graphic display of how the model features integrate throughout the workshops.

Several weeks following the initial workshop, departments will gather again in an Action Plan Workshop, a 1 ½ hour session that specifies (or evaluates, if the department has been pro-active) objectives, exact action items, key participants, timelines, etc. (Figure 1, Level 4). Here, the final processes of AI (creating a shared image of a preferred future and improvising ways to create that future) will be employed with “Preparation” and “Action” TM processes (Self and social-liberation, reinforcement management, helping relationships, counter-conditioning, stimulus control).

Finally, each department (or key representatives) will meet individually with ADVANCE representatives to review activities, evaluate progress, and modify plans (Figure 1, Level 5). During this phase, “Action” and “Maintenance” stages are assumed, and the appropriate processes will be emphasized. Also, during these meetings, the beginning of the AI process, which is circular, will be re-emphasized: participants will be asked to consider the positive aspects of their efforts to date, the exceptionally positive moments individuals have experienced, sharing stories, and planning how to progress further.

We believe integrating these models will give ADVANCE both a useful theoretical framework and a language with which to conceptualize change at URI, and a specific vehicle and roadmap for progressing toward our goal of promoting the careers of women STEM faculty. The Academic Work Environment Survey, with its TM assessment component, will be redistributed during Year 5, and will enable us to track stage-based changes in the departments with which we are involved.


Mohr, B.J., & Watkins, J.M. (2002). The essentials of appreciative inquiry: A roadmap for creating positive futures. Innovations in Management Series. Williston, VT: Pegasus Communications.

Prochaska, J. O. & DiClemente, C.C. (1982). Transtheoretical therapy: Toward a more integrative model of change. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, & Practice. 19, 276-288.

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