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SLU Receives $500,000 Grant to Create a Faculty Position in Robotics and Autonomous Systems for a New, Early-Career, Female Professor

by Maggie Rotermund
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Saint Louis University was awarded a $500,000 grant from the Clare Boothe Luce program of the Henry Luce Foundation to create a tenure-track assistant professor position in Robotics and Autonomous Systems for a new, early-career, female faculty member within Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology.

Parks College

Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology. SLU file photo.

The faculty member will join SLU in the fall of 2021. 

The professorship will be for five years, with SLU fully funding the position thereafter. The grant allows for substantial professional development funds to be provided for expenses such as training, additional research support, travel or childcare. 

This new CBL Professor will be provided with protected time, resources and personalized mentoring to grow her research laboratory and launch a successful career as an engineering faculty member.

The Clare Boothe Luce Program’s mission is “to encourage women to enter, study, graduate, and teach” in science, math and engineering and the CBL Program has become the single most significant source of private support for women in these fields in U.S. Higher Education.

“When we created The School of Engineering in 2018, we intentionally eliminated the normal barriers between academic departments,” said Michelle Sabick, Ph.D., dean of SLU’s Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology. “All engineering faculty members report to the same Director. This interdisciplinary environment is a perfect backdrop for the CBL Professor, who will be able to freely participate in the specific academic program or programs most appropriate to her teaching and research interests.”

During Dean Sabick’s tenure, Parks College has been dedicated to improving the gender diversity of faculty within the College. From 2017-19, 43% of all new faculty hires in engineering and the sciences at SLU were female, up from 35% from 2014-2016.

Additionally, in the past two years, four women in Parks College have achieved tenure promotions.

The CBL Professor will be recruited from the pool of promising female candidates with a recent Ph.D. or postdoctoral fellowship in robotics or autonomous systems who have the potential to build a national reputation. She will receive a competitive salary, large and flexible start-up package, and a substantial professional development fund. 

The small, supportive environment of the School of Engineering, the presence of excellent research groups to foster collaboration and an existing partnership with a major manufacturing company with strong expertise in autonomous systems makes SLU an ideal partner for the Clare Boothe Luce program.

The Luce Foundation has previously awarded SLU funding to support women in Parks College with graduate assistantships, and in 2018, SLU theology professors Rachel Lindsay and Patricia Lee received a $400,000 grant from the foundation for their work Lived Religion in the Digital Age. This is the first time the Foundation has funded a professorship at SLU.

Clare Boothe Luce (CBL) Program for Women in STEM

Since its first grants in 1989 the Clare Boothe Luce (CBL) Program for Women in STEM has become the single most significant source of private support for women in science, mathematics and engineering in Higher Education in the United States. Clare Boothe Luce, the widow of Henry R. Luce, was a playwright, journalist, U.S. Ambassador to Italy, and the first woman elected to Congress from Connecticut. In her bequest establishing this program, she sought “to encourage women to enter, study, graduate, and teach” in science, mathematics and engineering. To date, the program has supported more than 2,800 women. As of 2020, the CBL Program for Women in STEM has awarded a total of 807 grants to 200 different institutions, including 64 grants to Minority-Serving Institutions.

Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 12,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.