Dr. Philipsen: “Transformative” program begins

Headshot of Dr. Maike Philipsen
Dr. Maike Philipsen

The VCU ADVANCE-Institutional Transformation (IT) grant team has begun training members of its Immunity to Change (ITC) facilitator program, an innovative program led by the VCU School of Education’s Dr. Maike Philipsen, professor and department chair in the Department of Foundations of Education.

In 2018, The National Science Foundation awarded an ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant of $2.99 million to a team of faculty women leaders at VCU, one of only five prestigious grants of this type awarded that year. In addition to Philipsen, the team consists of Drs. Susan Kornstein (serving as principal investigator), Rosalyn Hobson Hargraves, Gypsy Denzine, Barbara Boyan, Deirdre Condit, Jennifer Johnson and Denise Grothues.

Applying a Successful Framework

The purpose of the grant is to transform the university to effectively diversify its faculty across various intersecting identities in STEM fields and beyond. Specifically, it seeks to increase the recruitment, retention and advancement of diverse women faculty through cultural and structural change. It is highly innovative in that it applies the Immunity to Change framework to higher education in ways that have never been done before.

Over the next four years, ITC facilitators will help members of the VCU community better understand and overturn immunities to change related to faculty diversity. They will work with search committees, promotion and tenure committees, and awards committees, as well as department chairs, STEM departments and other leadership groups.

Building Facilitators and Champions

On September 13 and 14, over 40 members of the VCU community participated in full-day training sessions to learn about ITC and how to become champions of the program; over 20 deepened their learning of how to become ITC facilitators. The sessions featured Dr. Lisa Lahey of Harvard University who, with renowned developmental psychologist Robert Kegan, co-created the powerful ITC framework. Philipsen, who is also co-principal investigator and deputy director of the ADVANCE-IT Leadership Team, said that these training sessions will help to realize the transformative nature of this grant.

“The excitement in the rooms on Friday and Saturday was palpable. Here are all these people who care deeply about advancing faculty diversity at VCU, and they are willing to push themselves and learn something new that will infuse fresh ideas into why achieving diversity is sometimes so difficult despite our best intentions. All of us, the ITC co-founder Dr. Lahey, the ADVANCE team members, the ITC facilitators and the members of the VCU community, were energized because we knew we are doing something bold, something that has not been done before at a university but has great potential to change the way we think and the way we act” Philipsen said.

Dr. Lisa Lahey of Harvard University speaks to participants at the Sept. 13 training session.
Dr. Lisa Lahey of Harvard University speaks to participants at the Sept. 13 training session.