What is AFFIRM?

AFFIRM aims to strengthen USD’s recruitment of female faculty, especially those of color, in the fields of science, engineering, computer science, social science and mathematics. Funded by the National Science Foundation, AFFIRM is helping the University of San Diego become a model for undergraduate institutions striving to increase diversity and provide a supportive environment for female faculty. USD's AFFIRM project is a collaborative effort between the College of Arts and Sciences and the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering

USD's AFFIRM project is a collaborative effort between the College of Arts and Sciences and the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering.


AFFIRM stands for Advancement of Female Faculty: Institutional climate, Recruitment and Mentoring, and it is a comprehensive project that enhances efforts to recruit women faculty, in particular women of color, in STEM and the social/behavioral science disciplines at the University of San Diego.

Program Achievements

The AFFIRM project began at USD in 2012. Important strides have been made to recruit and retain female STEM faculty. This is most evident in the hiring of an interdisciplinary cohort of eight outstanding female STEM professors in the fall of 2014.

Sue Rosser, a member of the external review board for the NSF grant, and provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at San Francisco State University had this to say of the cohort hire and program:

“This grant has provided USD with a new paradigm for establishing a hiring process that more closely meets the goals of this university,” Rosser said. “The interdisciplinary work of the new hires presents an opportunity for USD to move in directions that represent a modern approach to the way science is done. It is no surprise that this set of hires is bringing positive attention to USD, and top universities around the country are looking to mimic it.”

William Yslas Vèlez, another member of the review board, who is a mathematics professor at the University of Arizona, agrees: “There are difficult tasks to accomplish and then there are the impossible tasks. Hiring female faculty members is viewed by academia as a difficult task. Hiring a cohort of eight female faculty can justifiably be viewed as impossible. Yet the University of San Diego accomplished this impossible task this past year. I am in awe! What other impossible achievements lie in wait?”


"The goal of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) ADVANCE program is to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce. ADVANCE encourages institutions of higher education and the broader science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) community, including professional societies and other STEM-related not-for-profit organizations, to address various aspects of STEM academic culture and institutional structure that may differentially affect women faculty and academic administrators. As such, ADVANCE is an integral part of the NSF’s multifaceted strategy to broaden participation in the STEM workforce, and supports the critical role of the Foundation in advancing the status of women in academic science and engineering.

Since 2001, the NSF has invested over $130M to support ADVANCE projects at more than one-hundred institutions of higher education and STEM-related not-for-profit organizations in forty-one states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, including twenty-four EPSCoR jurisdictions."

Source: NSF website

About NSF

"The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…" With an annual budget of about $6.9 billion (FY 2010), we are the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing."

Source: NSF website