Eight professors were awarded the new Presidential Diversity Research Grant (PDRG) as part of an initiative to help nontenured faculty of color conduct research and gain tenure at Binghamton University.

The grant, which is sponsored by the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), was given to professors from a variety of disciplines.

The $40,000 grant is funded through the office of University President Harvey Stenger and is meant to cover recipients’ research expenses and increase recruitment efforts for minority faculty members. Stenger said this program will help create a more diverse and inclusive campus environment for everyone.

“Developing and retaining a faculty that represents the growing diversity of our student body is a critical mission for our University,” Stenger said. “These faculty members from eight different programs embody the University’s values, rooted in academic excellence and diversity of community. I am excited for what their research will uncover.”

Nicole Sirju-Johnson, interim chief diversity officer and director of the Multicultural Resource Center, proposed the program to Stenger and got it approved over the summer. She said once the grant application was open, it garnered plenty of interest.

“The application for the grant was announced in Dateline in late June and was due to DEI by Aug. 31,” Sirju-Johnson said. “The first round of the grant was competitive. However, the committee recommended funding eight faculty proposals.”

The committee consisted of five professors from a variety of disciplines and two administrative officers, including Sirju-Johnson.

While many professors learned about the grant through the University’s Dateline, Christopher Greene, a grant recipient and an assistant professor of systems science and industrial engineering, wrote in an email that he heard about the opportunity through Sirju-Johnson. According to Greene, he plans on utilizing the funding to study how robots and humans can collaborate to improve manufacturing in automated pharmacy systems.

“Diversity grants such as this one allow broader participation in research initiatives which can be visible across campus,” Greene wrote. “This, in turn, can inspire others. I hope the outcome is to see some great work done by the recipients that can be shared across campus and nationwide.”

Recipient Miesha Marzell, an assistant professor of social work, said she was very excited about the opportunity and applied almost immediately. Marzell said she hopes programs like these continue to allow professors to bring knowledge and passion to their classrooms, as well as the community.

“Providing diversity initiatives such as the PDRG grant provides tangible opportunities for faculty of color to succeed and contribute to the Binghamton campus community for, hopefully, a long time,” Marzell said. “It creates an atmosphere of inclusivity because the grant is an effort to achieve a sense of belonging rather than fitting in. Feeling like I belong and that there is real support for my efforts to achieve tenure is so important in the success of my early career faculty journey.”

BU requires that those pursuing a tenured professorship must make scholarly contributions to their field of study, often through published peer-reviewed works.

Marvin Diaz, a grant recipient and an assistant professor of psychology, researches how adolescent alcohol exposure affects anxiety in adulthood. Diaz wrote in an email that he hopes this research funding will help him establish foundational findings that could then be used in larger, more competitive grant proposals and increase the likelihood of his tenure.

“I believe that these types of programs highlight the success of diverse [and] underrepresented minorities in academia, especially in a campus with a highly diverse student population who may doubt or wonder if there are opportunities for them in a career such as this,” Diaz wrote. “I also think this is true for those from non-diverse backgrounds to see the success of diverse populations.”