Professor named an Office to Advance Women, Equity & Diversity associate director

By Ashley Garcia

caroline simpson

Caroline Simpson, professor of physics in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education, is the second associate director of the Office to Advance Women, Equity & Diversity (AWED).

AWED aims to achieve and sustain faculty equity and diversity as an essential element of FIU’s academic excellence. The office also houses FIU ADVANCE, the university’s five-year, $3.2 million Institutional Transformation grant awarded in 2016 by the National Science Foundation to develop strategies that increase the number of women and minority professors in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the social and behavioral sciences at FIU.

The positions were created in Spring 2020 to assist AWED with STRIDE and Bystander team facilitation, diversity & inclusion plan development, and research and publishing projects and collaborations. Simpson joins inaugural associate director Kirsten Wood, associate professor of history.

As a woman in a physical science field, Simpson has been interested in gender equity issues for the last 30 years. In 2007, she became a member of the American Astronomical Society National Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy.

“I became much better educated on issues of gender equity in higher education, particularly in STEM fields, and learned about best practices and work that was being done at other universities. I started looking around at FIU and was getting concerned because I didn’t see that sort of work being done here.”

When the College of Arts, Sciences & Education put out a call for faculty fellow positions in Fall 2018, she was interested in the chance to turn her passions for gender and equity issues and faculty hiring into practice, and became the College of Arts, Sciences & Education faculty fellow for diversity and inclusion.

The position brought her into closer contact with AWED. She runs the training workshops that make up the Diversity Advocate program, which helps create extra recruitment efforts aimed at direct and personal contact and encourage the utilization of best practices in evaluating diverse applicant pools. Last year, she was one of the first three equity advisors, a faculty member in each college whose mandate is to oversee diversity and equity issues.

As associate director, Simpson will continue her efforts with AWED, which have been focused at the departmental level and include the Diversity Advocate program, in helping departments identify annual goals for their diversity and inclusion plans, working with chairs to help them implement those plans and providing assessment of their annual reports.

Simpson hopes to help AWED accomplish the goals set out in the NSF ADVANCE grant, which focuses on institutionalizing practices and programs to help diversify our faculty and make FIU an inclusive and welcoming place for faculty, staff and students.​

“A better climate is a benefit for everyone, and will help FIU​ become not just a preeminent university in the State University System, but a leader nationwide in research, teaching and service because of our strong, diverse faculty.”