NSF pegs WCU associate professor to help retain and advance diverse STEM faculty

Yanjun Yan (right), associate professor in the College of Engineering and Technology, was chosen as a NSF ASCEND Faculty Fellow.

Yanjun Yan, an associate professor in Western Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology, was recently named a National Science Foundation ASCEND Faculty Fellow.

Through the ASCEND (which stands for Advancing STEM Careers by Empowering Network Development) fellowship program, Yan will participate in an inter-institutional peer mentoring network to foster the retention and advancement of a diverse STEM faculty population.

The NSF ASCEND program is part of a $1 million grant that is being used to create peer mentoring networks of mid-career STEM women faculty and administrator allies across institutions and regions. The collaborative initiative involves nine project leaders, 60 faculty participants and 15 administrator participants from colleges and universities across the Northwest, the Midwest and the Southeast.

Over the next four years, the participants will be engaged in conversations and training opportunities to give them the tools they need to advance their careers. Yan will attend monthly online meetings, as well as annual face-to-face regional meetings.

Yan was encouraged to apply for the fellow by Chip Ferguson, assistant dean of the College of Engineering and Technology. Ferguson is also part of the program after being named a NSF ASCEND Catalyst, where he is an administrator participant.

“By the mere fact that Dr. Ferguson encouraged me to apply, I felt valued and inspired at WCU, and we can collaborate to make our campus even more inclusive,” Yan said. “We will definitely share whatever we learn with our colleagues who are interested in such efforts. After getting an acceptance into the program, I am excited about what we will learn and bring back to our campus to achieve inclusive excellence for both our students and faculty.”