Raising a family and pursuing a career can often be a difficult balance to strike. A new statewide travel fund for female faculty and post-doctoral scholars in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math, social sciences and women’s studies will soon help ease the burdens associated with child and eldercare costs.

The first statewide program in the nation, the travel fund will provide female faculty and post-doctoral scholars at all public and private institutions of higher learning in West Virginia, including 2-year colleges, the opportunity to apply for funding. Applications for Summer 2015 began in April. The application deadline is July 15, 2015. Eligibility details are available at the following link: http://stemtravel.wvu.edu/home.

The fund is made possible by a 2-year grant from the Elsevier Foundation’s New Scholars Program. The Elsevier Foundation provides grants to institutions around the world, with a focus on support for the world’s libraries and for scholars in the early stages of their careers. The funds will be administered by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research.

“This new program will allow women the opportunity to travel when otherwise they wouldn’t be able to,” said Leslie Tower, principal investigator of the award and professor in the West Virginia University School of Social Work. “Traveling is critical to their career.”

Amy Keesee, Co-PI and Research Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy said, “Traveling is key to making further connections that benefit the faculty and the university.”

Maura McLaughlin, also Co-PI and Professor of Physics and Astronomy said, “Not only does it showcase the work being conducted, but it also allows for members to make connections that may, down the line, resurface as research opportunities.”

Organizers say that such an investment in STEM fields is pivotal for the state’s future.

“Increasing the numbers of college graduates, particularly in STEM fields, is essential to support the state as it transitions from an industry-driven to knowledge-driven economy,” Tower said. “To accomplish this goal, West Virginia must make significant investments in its faculty, particularly female faculty.”

By providing these funds, female faculty members may find it easier and less restricting to take advantage of opportunities that will advance their career.

“The progression of the ‘ideal’ academic career runs parallel to social norms around the timing of marriage and parenting,” said Melissa Latimer, director of WVU ADVANCE. “Innovative programs like the one designed by WVU faculty and fully supported by the Elsevier foundation have the potential to remove barriers to work-related travel and thus may help eliminate some of the subtle and insidious penalties faculty who provide direct care for others accumulate throughout their careers.”

The next application deadline is July 15, 2015. For a more detailed program overview, visit: http://stemtravel.wvu.edu/home.