How the Women's Faculty Caucus Began

The WFC is an advisory group that was first organized in 2006.

President Geoffrey Gamble and Provost David Dooley announced the formation of a steering committee to aid the faculty and the university in enhancing the opportunities for career advancement and the success, in teaching, scholarship, service and leadership of women among the faculty. Inaugural committee members were: Susan Capalbo (Director of Special Projects for Enhancing Diversity and Professor of Agricultural Economics), Lisa Graumlich (Executive Director of the Big Sky Institute and Professor of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences), and Cindy Stillwell (Associate Professor of Media and Theatre Arts). Both the President and Provost were delighted that these accomplished faculty were willing to provide leadership toward MSU's goal of establishing the kind of community where all faculty may excel.

The History and Roles of Women's Groups on Campus

Since 2006, several other organizations have formed to address related issues. In 2009 the Parent Advocate Program, now called the Family Advocate program, was started to address the needs of faculty who were parents or caregivers, addressing issues related to family leave, pregnancy, adoption, and child care.

In the fall of 2011, President Cruzado announced the formation of the President's Commission on the Status of University Women (PCOSUW). The 28-member commission studies, evaluates and advises the president on issues related to diversity and gender equity. Their mission statement says it aims to “work toward the discovery and elimination of institutional barriers to the success of women.” This group overlaps with the mission of the WFC; however the scope is larger than that of the WFC, addressing not only women faculty, but also women students and staff.

In 2012 MSU received a NSF Institutional Transformation Grant to establish the Advance Project TRACS program, which was in place until 2017. The goal of the program was to “broaden the participation of women faculty in STEM and underrepresented areas of Social and Behavioral Science (SBS).” Some of the techniques the program used to do so included improving women faculty’s sense of: Relatedness, Autonomy, and Competence. Overall the goal of the program was to: Enhance Research Capacity and Opportunity, Enhance Work-Life Integration, Enhance Cultural Attunement. These goals overlapped the Women’s Faculty Caucus’s mission. But, while the program leaders tried to improve the overall campus climate, the funding and thus the targets of the program were primarily women faculty in STEM/SBS, not in the humanities or the arts.

The much larger funding available during Advance allowed for new programs, many of which have been institutionalized at MSU since the end of the grant. However some programs, like the Equity Advocates for Search Committees, have not been continued since 2017. The professional development and community building aspects of the program have been picked up by the new Women in STEM/SBS Learning Community. This group seems to replicate or replace some of the activities formerly organized by the Women’s Faculty Caucus, but meeting the specific needs of this subgroup in STEM/SBS. MSU’s recent award from NSF Aspire Program may contribute to continuing the work started by Advance in the STEM fields.

Other groups on campus that address Women’s issues overlapping with the WFC mission include the Women’s Center, which aims to “empower women and create an equitable campus environment by offering educational programs” such as hosting lunchtime lectures, inviting guest speakers, and organizing Women’s History month events. The Office of Institutional Equity handles reporting of sexual discrimination or harassment, particularly Title IX claims.

Past WFC Chairs 

  • 2016-2018: Suzanne Held and Leila Sterman
  • 2014-2016: Meta Newhouse
  • Graham Austin
  • Beth Burroughs
  • Jessi Smith
  • 2009-2011: Sara Rushing
  • 2006- Susan Capalbo, Lisa Graumlich, and Cindy Stillwell

Past WFC Distinguished Mentor Award Honorees:

  • Elizabeth Bird, 2018
  • Mary Murphy, 2017
  • Tracy Sterling, 2016
  • Linda Young, 2015
  • Laura Black, 2014
  • Suzanne Held, 2013
  • Sarah Codd, 2012
  • Cathy Zabinski, 2011
  • Bridget Kevane, 2010