Eve of Departure: Global Perspectives Program!

May 20, 2016 I am so excited to be going to Switzerland and Italy! 10 years ago, I did a whirlwind (singing) tour of England, however I wish I had more time to take in the culture. This is a great opportunity for me to see (taste and feel) more of Europe and get a better understanding of the philosophies at other higher education institutions. On the eve of departure… I’m still packing! #panic! I’ve got my umbrella, a few (too many!) clothes that won’t wrinkle in my suitcase, a caveman’s understanding of German and Italian (why didn’t I start Rosetta Stone sooner?!), but a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish (which is not one of Switzerland’s 4 main languages, but I’m hoping it’s similarities to Italian will prevent me from being a complete outsider). I’m thinking about the goals I want to achieve from this program. Initially, I wanted to learn more about how the Swiss go about increasing diversity in higher education. However, diversity concepts are very different in America, where many issues are rooted in race discrimination. However, race is not quite as prominent in Switzerland; the main foci of discrimination at Swiss institutions are gender and internationals. When it comes to gender, several major advancements have been made in Switzerland since 1981, when women were granted the same constitutional rights to equal opportunity, equal status, and equal pay. At the university level, a lot of these can be attributed to the “Federal Programme for Equal Opportunities of Women and Men at Swiss Universities,” which was implemented in 2000. However, because there are three major types of Universities in Switzerland (Federal Institutes [ETH], cantonal [equivalent of state-run universities], and universities of applied sciences [mixture of funding sources]) the ability of the Equal Opportunities Program to foster change is quite heterogeneous. Since we will be visiting all three types of universities on this trip, the main research topics/questions I have decided to explore while overseas are:
  • How has the Swiss Federal Equal Opportunity at Universities Program changed the diversity landscape of higher education at institutions?
    • From 2013-16, the Swiss federal government has dedicated CHF 10 million (over 10 million dollars) for the universities’ gender equality actions
    • Main program goal: 25% women professors at Swiss universities, with 40% at level of assistant professorships, as well as an increased proportion of women in academic leadership positions at universities and related institutions. What challenges still exist to meet these goals?
  • In particular, I would like to focus on “domains for action in the action plans” from the program:
    • #2:Women professors, women in academic leadership positions
    • #3: Training for PhD students/post-docs
    • #4: Work-life integration with respect to studying at university, pursuing an academic career, family and personal/private responsibilities
    • #5: Women and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics)
  • Questions interested in asking:
    • What programs (STEM?) have been implemented in the past 3 years at your university as a result of the Federal Equal Opportunities at Universities Program? (e.g. for dual career couples)
      • For professors: Do you believe these programs were effective?
      • How could they be more effective?
      • How did they affect you or your students’ (PhDs/post-docs) lives? (i.e. Did they benefit you or your students in any way?)
    • What would have been the most effective form of support you could have received as a PhD student or post-doc that might have helped you advance your career sooner? (Help with child/family care? Project funding? Personal funding?)
    • When you were a PhD student/post-doc, (other than your research) what was the thing in your life that took up the most of your time? (Child/family care? Other obligations?)
      • What percentage of your time did you spend on research vs. family/other obligations?
      • How long did it take you to complete your PhD?
      • How much time passed between completing PhD and becoming an associate professor?
      • How long did it take between associate and full professor?
There’s so much to explore and so much I don’t know…but I need to finish packing first! Did I mention that I was excited?! What issues do you think about when it comes to promoting gender equality in America? Any recommendations or topics you think I should explore while I’m overseas? Follow our adventures on Facebook and Twitter with #gppswiss16 !  

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