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ADVANCE Institutional Transformation at Florida International University

Sponsor: Florida International University
Kenneth Furton [email protected] (Principal Investigator)
Yesim Darici (Co-Principal Investigator)
Ranu Jung (Co-Principal Investigator)
Michael Heithaus (Co-Principal Investigator)
Suzanna Rose (Co-Principal Investigator)


The ADVANCE program is designed to foster gender equity through a focus on the identification and elimination of organizational barriers that impede the full participation and advancement of women faculty in academic institutions. Organizational barriers that inhibit equity may exist in areas such as policy, practice, culture, and organizational climate. The ADVANCE Institutional Transformation (ADVANCE-IT) track supports the development of innovative organizational change strategies within an institution of higher education to enhance gender equity in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.

Florida International University (FIU) is the 4th largest public university in the U.S. and the 2nd largest in Florida, with over 54,000 students with over 80% from underrepresented groups. FIU’s goal for this ADVANCE-IT project is to develop institutional structures, processes, and climate that builds an affirming and fair workplace. There are four objectives within this project: (1) Address issues that impede the recruitment, retention, and promotion of women STEM faculty, particularly women of color, to better reflect the demographics of the FIU student body; (2) Educate faculty about biases and “microclimates” (the local social climates that positively or negatively impact the work experience of faculty within the institution); (3) Develop strategies and tools to help move faculty from insight to action to promote gender equity; (4) Develop the Advance Florida Network comprised of the Florida metropolitan research universities (FIU, University of Central Florida, and University of South Florida).

The FIU project includes two social science research studies that will add to our knowledge of equity in STEM academics and strategies to foster equity. The first study will increase our understanding of “microclimates” and the role of the majority faculty in setting the climate of a department. The second study will investigate the long-term impact on the behavior of participants in the Deep Change Program intervention which includes training on inequity and using strategies to intervene.

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US Ignite: Focus Area 1: A Networked Virtual Reality Platform for Immersive Online Social Learning of Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Sponsor: University of Missouri-Columbia
Zhihai He [email protected] (Principal Investigator)
Janine Stichter (Co-Principal Investigator)
Prasad Calyam (Co-Principal Investigator)


This project explores a high-speed network-enabled, immersive, and smart virtual reality application, called vSocial, to connect children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from different geographical regions for online social training. The 2015 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) suggests that 1 in 45 children (>2%) have been diagnosed with ASD. Children with ASD are characterized by impairments in social skills, which can result in low quality of life, bringing emotional, financial, and physical stress and burden on the children, families, schools, and society. This project builds on project team’s work during the past five years within which we have successfully developed and evaluated a social competence intervention (SCI) curriculum and a computer-based virtual learning application called iSocial. The iSocial application makes the face-to-face SCI curriculum available online to youth with ASD and public schools, who would otherwise, due to geographical and personal limitations, have no access to such programs provided by experts.

vSocial will use an immersive Virtual Reality (VR) medium for application delivery over high-speed networking infrastructures at schools as well as cloud technologies available within Global Environment for Network Innovation (GENI) Racks. Such a transformation will allow us to study how end-to-end network performance tuning needs to be orchestrated across multi-provider paths and how to troubleshoot last-mile network bottlenecks (e.g., at schools or homes) for field-deployment of demanding gigabit applications such as vSocial. Specifically, (a) it will bridge the knowledge generalization gap between online social training and real-world social skills for students with ASD through use of a networked immersive VR system. (b) It will provide smart sensing capabilities for effective monitoring and tracking of the cognitive-affective states of student learners at remote ends for early individualized pedagogical interventions and outcome assessment. Through vSocial application prototype experimentation in the field (at actual schools with teachers and students involvement), this project will investigate the use of cognitive-affective sensing for online social training in education of students with ASD, use of VR glasses, and Unity3D VR content creation platform to assess immersive learning experience.

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