Elizabeth Boylan, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

TITLE: Program Director, STEM Higher Education

FUNDING AREAS: Undergraduate and graduate STEM programs

CONTACT: boylan@sloan.org, 212-649-1634

IP TAKE: Boylan is the type of person who's a natural at getting people excited about science. The video below isn't about her work at Sloan, but it gives you a glimpse of how passionate she is about STEM education.

PROFILE: Plucked from Barnard College in 2011, Elizabeth S. Boylan directs the STEM Higher Education program at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In addition to working in tandem with other Sloan officers on "pipeline programs for underrepresented groups and student retention," Boylan also helps out at the foundation's Civic Initiatives program.

Boylan's championship of STEM involves undergraduate and postsecondary education, including but not limited to educational and professional support for women and people of color to pursue master's degrees and Ph.D.s in  areas such as engineering and the natural sciences. For instance, in January 2013, Boylan procured $500,000 from Sloan for Drexel University's Executive Leadership in Academic Technology and Engineering (ELATE) "to provide high-potential female leaders in academic engineering and the sciences with essential executive skills, networks, and mentoring."

Sloan's STEM program also funds research on how to more effectively teach science and mathematics at the undergraduate and graduate levels and on what such departments can do to raise student retention rates. Recently, it gave a grant of $804,000 to the Bay View Alliance (BVA) "to support research on leadership practices that encourage the widespread adoption of effective teaching methods in the sciences." Discussing the partnership with BVA, Boylan said, "Innovation in teaching is critical to supporting learning in key STEM disciplines." According to the BVA website:

The Bay View Alliance is a consortium of research universities carrying out applied research on the leadership of cultural change for increasing the adoption of improved teaching methods at universities...[which] aims to identify and evaluate more effective ways for those of influence at all levels of a university to inspire and enable enhancements of teaching and learning, through adjustments to common educational methods and procedures.

Boylan has experience on both sides of the grantmaking process. Before stepping down as dean and provost at Barnard, she received and managed a $12 million grant for the university from the Mellon Foundation to enhance and update its environmental studies, biology, and chemistry departments, according to her profile at the school. Also of key history: Boylan was first a professor of Biological Sciences there.

Now on the other side of the aisle, she exercises the taste of a discerning connoisseur. As COACHE, a publication from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, writes:

...Boylan stresse[s] the importance of submitting proposals with data supported ideas and purpose, as well as a data management and distribution plan, including open access to data. The more specific and impact-driven the goals and metrics of success can be articulated, the better.

Boylan received a bachelor's degree in biology from Wellesley College and completed her PhD in zoology/embryology at Cornell. She did research in oncology and biochemistry as a postdoctoral fellow for the University of Rochester. Boylan also worked at CUNY, receiving tenure in the biology department at Queens College, and served as deputy chair of graduate studies there for four years. From there, it was on to Barnard, where she received tenure again and worked for 16 years before coming on over to Sloan.

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