Note: Thank you for your interest in ADVANCE Project TRACS, our NSF funded Institutional Transformational Grant which ended August 31, 2017. The pages that follow are historical documents for informational purposes only.

Project TRACS: An Empirical Investigation of Transformation through Relatedness, Autonomy, and Competence Support

The Team:

Jessi Smith, Psychology (Team Lead)
Rebecca Belou, Office of Planning & Analysis
Ian Handley, Psychology
Joy Honea, MSU-Billings, Sociology
Bryce Hughes, Education
Kristen Intemann, Philosophy
Kelli Klebe, University of Colorado - Colorado Springs
Liz Shanahan, Political Science
Monica Skewes, Psychology
Leila Sterman, Library
Sara Rushing, Political Science


Download a list of our publications, products, and presentations! 

Have questions about our project?


Contact Jessi Smith if you have questions at [email protected] (University of Colorado - Colorado Springs).

White Paper

Social Science Think Tank

UNDERSTANDING HOW INCLUSIVE CHANGE HAPPENS IN THE ACADEMY: Recommended Social and Psychological Theories and Measures for to Assess Faculty Experiences (PDF, 0.7 Mb) 
Collection of theories, concepts, and mechanisms that can be used by change agents to understand and measure diversity-related transformation in higher education.


Data Charrettes (poster sessions) were held each year by the Social Science Research Team to share progress on the initiatives, social science research, and results from the yearly faculty climate surveys.

April 26, 2016 Campus Climate Data Charrette Posters
April 28, 2015 Campus Climate Data Charrette Posters
April 15, 2014 Campus Climate Data Charrette Posters
April 9, 2013 Campus Climate Data Charrette Posters

Research Objective 1: Test the extent to which institutional, departmental, and individual markers predict gender cultural transformation among MSU faculty and administrators

Research Objective 2: Test the dynamic and complex ways in which fostering competence, autonomy, and relatedness needs can bring about cultural transformation at MSU. Here we tested the fit of an “Additive model” whereby initiatives could have an additive positive effect on the three needs for both faculty and administrators resulting in cultural transformation compared to a “Specialized model” whereby each initiative could have unique and independent positive effects on a particular need for particular people. Results showed support for the additive model

Research Objective 3: Test the effectiveness of each of the “Enhancing Cultural Attunement” initiative components

Project TRACS used self-determination theory (SDT) ( as the organizing framework for the selection of three initiatives: Enhancing Research Capacity and Opportunity, Enhancing Work-Life Integration, and Enhancing Cultural Attunement. A self-determined environment supports the (universal) psychological needs of people to make meaningful connections with others (relatedness), have flexibility and control over processes and outcomes (autonomy), and engage in opportunities for learning and mastery (competency; Deci & Ryan, 1985). The theory suggests, and empirical data support, that when these three basic needs of relatedness, autonomy, and competence are satisfied, job satisfaction improves, organizational trust and loyalty increase, and creativity, motivation and performance thrive (Deci & Ryan, 2000).

The SDT Process of Cultural Transformation

The SDT Process of Cultural Transformation

We predicted that a need-supported climate, targeted at broadening the participation of women in STEM/SBS, will engender institutional cultural transformation benefiting all campus community members (See Figure 1). Thus, SDT not only supported our hypothesis driven initiative generation, but also provided a theoretical pathway to study the process of cultural transformation. We assessed not only the outcomes of the transformative initiatives (did the program work?), but the process of transformation over time (why did it work?). An innovative appeal of Project TRACS was our goal of understanding the dynamic and complex ways in which fostering competence, autonomy, and relatedness brought about institutional cultural transformation. 

 The process of program evaluation is often displayed using a program “logic model.” The logic model is a conceptual representation of the relationship between inputs, activities, and desired outcomes.  Inputs include the resources mobilized to support the project and include financial resources as well as personnel who contribute to the project.  Activities consist of efforts undertaken by the project to achieve the desired outcomes. Outcomes are divided into short-term, medium-term, and long-term. The logic model guiding the evaluation is presented below. 

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ADVANCE Project TRACS Logic Model

Hughes, B. E., Smith, J. L., Bruun, M., Shanahan, E. A., Rushing, S., Intemann, K., Handley, I. M., Belou, R., Stoop, C., & Sterman, L. (2022). Department Leaders as Critical Conduits for the Advancement of Gender Equity Programs. Journal of Women and Gender in Higher Education, 15(1), 41–64.

Allen, J. M., Smith, J. L., & Ransdell, L. (2019). Missing or Seizing the Opportunity? The Effect of an Opportunity Hire on Job Offers to Science Faculty Candidates. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: An International Journal. 38, 160-177. doi: 10.1108/EDI-09-2017-0201

Smith, J. L., Handley, I. M., Rushing, S. A., Belou, R., Shanahan, E.A., Skewes, M. C., Kambich, L., Honea, J., Intemann, K. (2017). Added Benefits: How Supporting Women Faculty in STEM Improves Everyone's Job SatisfactionJournal of Diversity in Higher Education, 11(4), 502-517.

Skewes, M. C., Shanahan, E. A., Smith, J. L., Honea, J., Belou, R., Rushing, S., Intemann, K.,  Handley, I. M. (2018). Absent Autonomy: Relational Competence and Gendered Paths to Faculty Self-Determination in the Promotion and Tenure ProcessJournal of Diversity in Higher Education, 11(3), 366-383.

Smith, J.L., Stoop, C. D., Young, M., Belou. R., & Held, S. (2017). Grant writing bootcamp: An intervention to enhance the research capacity of academic women in STEM.BioScience, 67 (7), 638-645.

Mitchneck, B., Smith, J. L. & Latimer, M. (2016). A Recipe for Change: Creating a More Inclusive AcademyScience, 352(6282), 148-149 (6282), 148-149. doi: 10.1126/science.aad8493

Smith, J. L., Handley, I. M., Zale, A. V., Rushing, S. A., & Potvin, M. (2015). Now Hiring! Empirically Testing a 3-Step Intervention to Increase Faculty Gender Diversity in STEMBioScience, 65(11), 1084-1087. 

Handley, I. M., Brown, E. R., Moss-Racusin, C. A., Smith, J. L. (2015). Quality of Evidence Revealing Subtle Gender Biases in Science is in the Eye of the BeholderProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(43), 13201–13206. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1510649112