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Towson ADVANCE IT-Start Research Anticipates New White House/NSF Initiative

Photo by Lawrence Jackson
Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Towson, Md. (November 30, 2011): This Fall, representatives of the White House Council on Women and Girls, the White House Office of Science and Technology, and the National Science Foundation announced the ?NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative,? a 10-year plan designed to provide greater occupational flexibility to women and men in research careers. The NSF intends to implement best practices that will include allowing researchers to suspend their grants for up to one year for the purpose of caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, publicizing the availability of family friendly opportunities, changing policies regarding tenure and dual hiring opportunities, etc.

First lady Michelle Obama spoke about the importance of this NSF initiative in facilitating the support of women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. Women are commonly sidetracked in terms of career retention and advancement on account of difficulties in balancing familial and occupational obligations. It is crucial that policy standards regarding the balance between work and family be maximized to allow for both the support of researchers and the maintenance of research momentum within all STEM-related fields. The NSF, this nation?s leading source of Federal grants for many fields of basic scientific research, is appealing to institutes of education and research to adopt similar policies for their employees and grantees.

As one of the region?s premiere public universities, Towson University provides an outstanding model for a study of the various factors influencing the retention and advancement of women in science careers within institutions of higher education. Gail Gasparich, professor of biology and associate dean of the Jess and Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics, is heading the university?s ADVANCE IT-Start project. This project is gathering baseline data in order to closely study major issues related to the hiring, retention, and advancement of women in STEM fields within Towson University. By determining the climate for women faculty and reviewing current university policies and procedures related to women faculty, this project aims at the development of a plan for institutional transformation that will render Towson University a model of excellence in the enabling of women to fulfill career objectives while meeting the needs of their families.

In her September address, the first lady emphasized the support of girls and women in, or aspiring to, careers in research-intensive fields as being crucial to maintaining the United States? status as a global leader in scientific innovation and education. Such an objective requires that our institutes of research and higher education reap the full benefit of the diverse talents to be found within our schools and workforces. Under the guidance of Dr. Gasparich, Towson University?s ADVANCE IT-Start project will no doubt go a long way toward advancing and exemplifying best practices that will benefit the scientific community and thereby help secure America?s economy and future.

USDA People's Garden Logo
USDA People's Garden Logo

November 16, 2011 (Towson, Md.): Nadine Braunstein, director of the Allied Health program here at Towson University, has successfully secured a $60,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Nadine piloted the development of a winning grant proposal, which was shaped with contributions from the residents and community organizations within Cherry Hill. Also of invaluable assistance were members of the Baltimore City government and various Towson University faculty members, including Sonia Lawson of the Department of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science and Jessica Ring of the Department of Art. This grant will fund the establishment of a People?s Garden initiative in the Baltimore neighborhood of Cherry Hill. The development and maintenance of school and community gardens will provide for residents access to healthy, nutrient-rich food as well as offer significant educational opportunities for all members of the community regarding urban agriculture and best dietary practices. Such educational topics will include horticulture, environmental science, sustainable gardening practices, ergonomic gardening, nutrition, and the preparation of healthy meals involving produce planted and cultivated in Cherry Hill.

The sustainability of this project will be assured by the distribution of 75% of the awarded funds as micro-sub grants to various organizations and groups partnering together to develop the Cherry Hill gardens. To ensure that these efforts garner the public attention so crucial to success, a number of prominent officials have endeavored to bring attention to Cherry Hill. The Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, came to the Eat Healthy Live Healthy Urban Garden on November 10 to make a national announcement of the People?s Garden Grant Program. Dr. Terry Cooney delivered remarks on behalf of Towson University to demonstrate the deep bond between the campus community and the residents of Cherry Hill.

It is anticipated that this project will result in the establishment of multiple school and community gardens throughout the neighborhood so that as many residents as possible can benefit from the new influx of nutritious foods, the educational opportunities, and the overall aesthetic appeal to be introduced via urban agriculture. Nadine Braunstein?s years as a Registered Dietician, academic training, and hands-on experience will prove invaluable to this burgeoning enterprise, as will Towson University?s strong record of grants management which will allow this Grant to be handled in accordance with federally-established guidelines.

The entire project is representative of the collective desire of many Baltimoreans and regional organizations to effect a positive change in the quality of living for Cherry Hill?s current residents and its future generations. The unwavering dedication of the project?s participants combined with the generous funding provided by the USDA will go a long way toward attaining the project goal of fostering a greater standard of health and happiness within the city. Dr. Braunstein?s passion and expertise will no doubt serve to guide and nurture this Peoples? Garden initiative and to ensure that the greatest possible benefit is reaped from the sustained efforts of all persons and parties involved.

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