Dr. Maria (Mia) Bertagnolli (PI) is the Director of the Center for Teaching and Advising (CTA) and Professor of Biology at Gonzaga University. In her early career she was a Clare Boothe Luce Professor of Biochemistry. She has served as Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and has chaired both the Department of Biology and the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. She has worked to help departments develop clear guidelines for reappointment, promotion and tenure, developed resources and training for department Chairs, and mentored faculty across the College. As CTA Director she is developing programs that support faculty development and promote equitable, inclusive, antiracist pedagogy. 

Dr. Chrystal Bruce (PI) is the CoPI on a $1.3 million Department of Education First in the World grant at John Carroll University, a member of the MERCURY consortium where she has organized Faculty Mentoring Networks, and the chair of the ACS Physical Chemistry Exams Committee.  Dr. Bruce brings experience in faculty development and mentoring networks.

Dr. Patricia Flatt (PI) is a Professor of Chemistry at Western Oregon University. She has served as a Vertical Leader for the Chemistry Alliances in a previous NSF ADVANCE grant award (Advancing the Careers of Women in STEM at Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions through Professional Networks; ASAP #1107034) where she coordinated and led peer-group activities. At WOU, she has served as the PI on a collaborative grant with Oregon State University to develop a STEM Scholars Center for Diversity and Excellence at WOU for the advancement of women and underrepresented minority students pursuing STEM degree paths. Currently, Dr. Flatt is serving as the Coordinator for the STEM Scholar’s Center and has been working to institutionalize key programmatic elements from the pilot grant to increase student recruitment and retention within STEM .

Dr. Sarah Kirk (PI) is the Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Professor of Chemistry at Willamette University. In this role, she works to enhance structures to better support faculty throughout their careers at Willamette. Kirk provides leadership training, coordinates the faculty mentoring program and faculty development workshops, and supports diversity and equity initiatives within the college. She has done significant work re-envisioning both Shared Governance and Faculty Governance at Willamette University. Kirk also serves as the STEM Administrator on an NSF-S-STEM grant which addresses barriers impacting the retention of underrepresented students in the STEM fields at Willamette University. She is also the newly appointed Director of the First Year Experience. She earned a PhD in Chemistry from the University of California, San Diego. She enjoys being outdoors and spending time with family.

Dr. Elizabeth Roberts-Kirchhoff (PI) is an Assistant Dean for Academics and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry. For 10 years she worked with faculty as Director of Assessment. More recently she is the Institutional Core Director on the NIH Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) ReBUILDetroit grant, a collaboration between Wayne State University and University of Detroit Mercy to increase the number of underrepresented students in biomedical research careers.

Dr. Hala Schepmann (PI) is Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Chemistry Department and Physics Program in the STEM Division at Southern Oregon University.  Dr. Schepmann co-founded and leads a university faculty alliance that supports the advancement of women and other underrepresented faculty groups.  Through her leadership, this group’s efforts have resulted in the formation of a faculty ombuds office, dual-career supports for faculty and staff, tenure and evaluation clock extension policies, promotion criteria that led to an increase in associate professors standing for promotion, distinguished teaching and service faculty awards, workplace flexibility policies, a university-wide sick leave sharing policy, and a faculty mentoring program.


Dr. Cheryl Swanier (Senior Personnel) is currently a Senior Teaching Faculty of Computer Science at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Previously, she was an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Claflin University, where she was the former Department Chair of Mathematics and Computer Science and was named the Henry N. and Alice Carson Tisdale Endowed Professor. Dr. Swanier is the founder and CEO of Swanier Consulting, LLC. Dr. Swanier conducts research in Human Computer Interaction with an emphasis in visual programming of educational simulations with end user programming and educational gaming technologies. Swanier was selected as a Visiting Research Scientist at Google in Mountain View, California and she received the 2016-17 Google igniteCS Award. Swanier is a recipient of the 2013 NCWIT Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award. Swanier is also the recipient of the 2013 Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion Award given by the White House.  She was recognized by Ebony Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential African Americans in the December-January 2013-14 issue. Dr. Swanier works with many programs focused on increasing the computing pipeline by getting students interested in STEM disciplines and future technology careers through her non-profit The SIS Foundation, Inc. that implements the Kewl Girlz Kode project and is dedicated to increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in computing through engagement, inspiration, and empowerment.She is a recipient of the 2016 NCWIT Seed Fund Award, 2013 NCWIT Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award, and the 2013 Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion Award given by the White House.  She was recognized by Ebony Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential African Americans in the December-January 2013-14 issue.  Dr. Swanier works with outreach initiatives to improve computer science education at all levels. One of these initiatives is the ARTSI Alliance, Advancing Robotics, Technology for Societal Impact. Swanier established the first robotics lab at Claflin University. The robotics programming is implemented in Calypso, a robotics application framework in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University. Another initiative is the STARS (Students & Technology in Academia, Research & Service) Alliance, a regional partnership among academia, industry, K-12 and the community to strengthen local BPC programs by focusing on K-12 outreach, community service, student leadership and computing diversity research.

Dr. Victoria Turgeon (Senior Personnel) earned her biology degree from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in 1993 and her PhD in Neurobiology & Anatomy from Wake Forest University in 1998.  Later that year, Dr. Turgeon joined the Biology Department at Furman University where she has worked for over 20 years teaching introductory and major-level courses such as Cell Biology, Microanatomy, Human Anatomical Systems, and Comparative Anatomy. After being promoted to Full Professor, Dr. Turgeon took on the directorship of the interdisciplinary neuroscience major.  Currently, Dr. Turgeon serves as the Director of the MS in Community Engaged Medicine and serves on the board for the South Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund.  Dr. Turgeon has received awards in recognition of teaching excellence and mentoring from her university and from the state of SC.  Having mentored over 80 undergraduate researchers, Dr. Turgeon is committed to providing engaging independent research experiences for her students. 

Dr. Mary Katherine Watson (Senior Personnel) is currently an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at The Citadel. She earned BS and MS degrees in Biosystems Engineering from Clemson University in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Afterward, she earned her PhD in Environmental Engineering at The Georgia Institute of Technology in 2013. Upon arriving at The Citadel in 2013, Dr. Watson was the first female faculty in the School of Engineering. She enjoys and has invested significantly in the development of her undergraduate students, serving as past faculty advisor for the Society of Women Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Concrete Canoe Team, and two study abroad trips to Italy. In addition to the ASCEND project, Dr. Watson leads two active NSF grants in the area of engineering education. She is the Principal Investigator (PI) on a Scholarships in STEM grant focused on recruiting and retaining diverse, high-performing, low-income civil engineering students. Also, she serves as a Co-PI on a Research in Engineering Education grant focused on developing and assessing students’ cognitive flexibility in the domain of sustainable engineering. Dr. Watson is the proud recipient of seven teaching awards and six best paper awards awarded by regional, national, and international organizations. She was previously named the Young Civil Engineer of the Year by the South Carolina Section of ASCE (2016) and currently serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Civil Engineering Education.

Erika Stone is the current ASCEND Project Coordinator. She earned her BA in Comparative History of Ideas from University of Washington in 2008. She comes with over ten years at Prescott College, working across Northern and Southern Arizona writing and managing federal grants. The three AmeriCorps National Service programs she helped build focused on improving health, education, and economic outcomes for communities through specialized projects with local governments, schools, and non-profit agencies. She has experience developing projects from the ground up, working closely with diverse stakeholders, providing fiscal and programmatic support, and coordinating training and events.