Mobilizing Equity to Reduce Inequality in STEM (MERISTEM) is a coalition of DU faculty and staff working to address underrepresentation of women and other marginalized groups among STEM faculty.

The project is named for plant meristems—tissues made up of rapidly reproducing cells responsible for growth, development, and healing in plants. Our teams are working to bring growth by improving hiring, development by creating a network of mentoring and resources, and healing by creating accountability structures.

DU MERISTEM builds upon efforts that have been ongoing across DU’s campus, particularly work done by the Office of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, and by former provost, Dr. Corinne Lengsfeld, and current provost, Dr. Mary Clark, who are leads for the DU MERISTEM grant. Most importantly, DU MERISTEM takes advantage of initiatives that arose out of the DU Symposium, a grassroots effort to facilitate problem solving through faculty collaboration.

Faculty and staff at a NSM event.

History of DU's NSF ADVANCE Grant

In 2015 a group of women faculty in the Biology Department began meeting to discuss issues women faculty in the sciences were facing at DU. Around the same time, Drs. Nancy Sazaki, then Associate Dean of Natural Sciences and Math and Corinne Lengsfeld, Associate Provost of Research, organized several college-wide discussions and talks addressing issues specific to women faculty. In 2017 Dr. Anna Sher called a meeting of the most senior women faculty in each of the departments of the College of National Sciences and Mathematics with the dean, at which it was proposed that funding be sought to support initiatives to improve the situation of women faculty at DU.

In 2018, Biology faculty Anna Sher, Shannon Murphy, Robin Tinghitella, and Erica Larson began investigating funding to support equity work from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF program coordinators informed them applicants needed to include the social sciences and show strong support from the highest levels of administration.

With this in mind, in 2019 Anna Sher solicited support from the then-new Chancellor Jeremy Haefner and assembled a leadership team with Provost Mary Clark as the Primary Investigator, and co-PIs Vice Provost of Research Corinne Lengsfeld, Director of the Division of Diversity and Inclusion Kristin Deal, and Professor and Director of the Latinx Center Deb Ortega. Together with their steering committee and significant support from NSM Grant Administrator Helen McGrath, the group wrote a successful application to the NSF ADVANCE Program.

In June of 2021, the group was awarded almost a million dollars to fund the initiatives proposed by the team. The NSF ADVANCE grant funds three years of work, beginning in 2022.

National Science Foundation Logo


The National Science Foundation developed ADVANCE grants to broaden representation in academic sciences and engineering careers. Since 2001, the NSF has funded projects that work to address institutional culture and structures in order to hire, retain and advance women in STEM fields. Starting in 2016 the NSF began requiring all proposals to include an intersectional lens in recognition of the overlapping and compounding ways that gender, race, disability, and more can affect faculty. DU was awarded an ADVANCE Adaptation grant.

Learn More about NSF ADVANCE

Meet our team and learn more about our collaborators across the University of Denver.

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Historically Excluded Faculty (HEF)

In the grant and throughout this site, we refer to Historically Excluded Faculty (HEF). We define Historically Excluded Faculty as faculty from identity groups that have historically been discriminated against and excluded from STEM disciplines, including women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and those with intersectional identities.