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Deans Fellow Q&A: TINA BELL Women’s Leadership in STEM Program

Tina Bell

Tracy Mason, the College’s Assistant Dean for Strategic Marketing and Communications interviewed Dr. Tina Bell to learn more about her and the exciting new Dean’s Fellow Project on her plate.

Q: Tell us about your science background:

A:   I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Florida and a PhD in genetics from the University of Georgia. I was a postdoctoral research fellow at the College of Charleston’s Grice Marine Laboratory where I studied population genetics of marine invertebrates. I then held a faculty position at Brevard College in Western North Carolina where I coordinated the biology program, the honors program and taught many biology courses.  I joined the Mason community in 2018.

Q: What are your academic, research, and outreach focus areas?

A: I am an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department and a member of the college’s STEM Accelerator Program. In addition to teaching biology courses (cell biology and genetics), I co-coordinate the STEM Accelerator Learning Assistants (LA) program, the STEM Bridge and Math Boot camps as well as run a regional competition of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.  Recently, I began a partnership with a rural school district in Georgia where I along with high school teachers and Mason undergrads teach experiential STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) content to high school students. I am one of a team of Mason scientists who received a NSF Noyce grant last year that will provide funding and support to our students who are interested in teaching careers.

Q: Describe the focus of your faculty fellow role.

A:  Historically, women have been underrepresented in STEM disciplines especially in leadership positions.  Although women have made significant gains in the past thirty years (in some cases an increase of 27% in representation) we still have a long way to go.  In the College of Science at George Mason University, we are fortunate to have a majority female student population.  However, we must give our students appropriate skills and support so that they can be the next generation of leaders in STEM.  As a faculty fellow, I will be conceptualizing, structuring and launching a Women’s Leadership in STEM program for the college. Most other academic institutions that I have worked with have had leadership programs for women and I was surprised when I came to Mason that there was not a formal program supported by the College of Science.  There are currently many great student organizations working toward this purpose, but it would be helpful if we had a more cohesive group with more formal instruction, regular programming, and college support. 

Q: What is your initial vision for the effort?

A:  I envision that the program will hold regular workshops on leadership skills and career preparation as well as activities that focus on cohort building and networking. Ultimately, I hope that we could also provide formal coursework in these topics that would be available primarily to members of the program, but that would likely be a little further down the road.  It is my goal to have our program be led by our leaders.  We have many great women leaders and allies at Mason that have a wealth of knowledge and experience in navigating STEM careers.  I hope that we can form a larger group of these leaders that provide support for each other as well as act as mentors for the students in the program.

I am currently assembling a steering committee for the program and will be holding an information session for interested members of our community in the near future.

Q: How would you like people to submit ideas and feedback to you

A: If you have specific questions or would like to be involved, please complete this survey.  I promise to keep everyone informed as the program takes shape.