First to ADVANCE

First to ADVANCE is a photography exhibit featuring some of the women faculty trailblazers at the University of Maryland. This exhibit celebrates some of the many women faculty who achieved a "first" within their department or college. 

2019 Participants


Ritu Agarwal
Professor & Senior Associate Dean
Decision, Operations & Information Technologies Department
Robert H. Smith School of Business

First woman Distinguished University Professor
at the Robert H. Smith School of Business &
First woman Endowed Chair at the Robert H. Smith
School of Business



“I was one of seven women in an MBA cohort of 98 people over three decades ago. We’ve come a long way since then! I feel honored to be among early women in STEM disciplines, trained in mathematics and computer science before coming to business. If I can inspire young women and junior colleagues to not be constrained by stereotypes and strike out to follow their passion, I would be gratified.”


Ritu Agarwal is a Distinguished University Professor, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Research, and the Robert H. Smith Dean’s Chair of Information Systems at the Robert H. Smith School of Business.  She is also the Founding Director of the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS) at the Smith School.  Dr. Agarwal has published over 100 articles in journals such as Information Systems Research, MIS Quarterly, Management Science, Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, Health Affairs, and made presentations at a variety of national and international conferences.  Her current research is focused on the digital transformation of healthcare, health analytics, and artificial intelligence applications in health. Dr. Agarwal’s research has been featured in major media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and elsewhere. She is deeply passionate about using her research capabilities and advocacy to improve the practice and delivery of healthcare.    


Maureen Cropper
Distinguished University Professor & Chair
Department of Economics
College of Behavioral & Social Sciences
First woman Chair of the Economics Department



“After being a member of the Department of Economics at Maryland for 32 years, it was both a challenge and a privilege to be the first female Chair of the department. I would like to thank the faculty and staff of the department for their support and also my colleagues in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. I could not have done this without them.”


Maureen Cropper is an Environmental Economist who joined the University of Maryland in 1980. In 1995 she was the first woman to be elected President of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. In 2005, she was the first woman to be elected a Fellow of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. She is also the first woman to serve as Chair of the Department of Economics (2012-2019).


Lucy Dalglish
Professor & Dean
Philip Merrill College of Journalism
First non-interim woman Dean of the
Philip Merrill College of Journalism



“Early in my career, I worked in two fields—journalism and law—where women in leadership positions were rare. But I always sought mentors—both women and men. I never tried to be ‘first’ in anything. I just focused on the work and tried to appreciate the strengths of everyone I worked with. I’m proud that our faculty works hard to support our female students.”


Lucy Dalglish became the first permanent woman Dean of Philip Merrill College of Journalism in 2012 after careers in journalism, law, and non-profit management. A noted First Amendment expert, she served as executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press from 2000 to 2012. Prior to that, she was a litigator for the Minneapolis-based international law firm Dorsey and Whitney for five years and a reporter and editor for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for 13 years. Dean Dalglish has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Dakota and law degrees from Yale Law School and Vanderbilt University Law School. She serves on the national boards of the American Society of News Editors and the Freedom Forum Institute.


Ronit Eisenbach
School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation
First, and only, woman to achieve Full Professor
in the Architecture Program



“Throughout my career, I sought out female role models, who followed passion and talent and in doing so, crossed boundaries and carved wider paths for themselves and others. Mid-Century designer Ruth Adler Schnee knew she would never be hired as an architect, and instead became a world-renowned textile artist. Sculptor Mary Miss did an end run around the gallery system,  blurring boundaries and expanding the definition of art, by siting her work in the public realm. The creative efforts of these women and others enabled, supported, and inspired my own journey and motivate me to mentor and expand the opportunities for younger female colleagues and students.”

In 2018, Ronit Eisenbach became the first woman promoted to Full Professor in the Architecture Program since its founding fifty years ago.  Professor Eisenbach joined the University of Maryland faculty in 2002 earning tenure in 2009. In her creative work as an architect and public artist, her multi-disciplinary spatial practice sparks dialogue about the world we make for ourselves. In her role as Kibel Gallery Curator since 2003, she has celebrated the designs and curatorial work of underrepresented minorities and women.  In 2018, Professor Eisenbach initiated the National Center for Smart Growth’s Creative Placemaking Collaborative which will extend the School’s cross-disciplinary efforts and build bridges to the surrounding communities.


Carol Espy-Wilson
Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
A. James Clark School of Engineering
First African American woman, and first African American,
in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
to achieve tenure & be promoted to Full Professor



“Growing up African American, low-income, in the South, and in the 1960s, I had to overcome numerous obstacles to reach where I am today. I was blessed with a mother who loved and sacrificed for her children, and three older brothers who set a great example for me in terms of hard work, educational achievement, and breaking barriers. Although I was almost always the only African American and one of few women in most of my classes at Stanford and MIT, I never wasted time doubting my abilities. I remained focused and put in the time needed to excel. I hope to inspire others, especially Black women, to believe in themselves and break more barriers.”


Carol Espy-Wilson received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. She received her M.S., E.E., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from MIT. She is the first African American woman to get a Ph.D. in E.E. from MIT. She became the first African American faculty to have tenure in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Maryland when she was hired in 2001, and she also became the first African American full professor in ECE in 2007. She has received many honors and awards including being a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America and the International Speech Communication Association, receiving a Harvard Radcliffe Fellow Award in 2008, a Clare Boothe Luce Professorship from 1990-1995, a Distinguished Scholar Teacher Award at the University of Maryland in 2012, and was an ADVANCE Professor in 2011.


Nia Imani Fields
Principal Agent
Maryland 4-H Center
College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
First African American woman to achieve Full Principal Agent
in the UMD Extension 4-H Youth Development Program



“I truly value my role and responsibility as a woman faculty of color in 4-H Youth Development. Representation matters, and it is important for youth and faculty to see themselves represented in positions of tenure and leadership. I am honored and humbled to be the first African American woman to achieve Principal Agent (Full Professor equivalent) within the UME 4-H Youth Development Program. I look forward to an even more diverse future in our department, where these moments are no longer anomalies, but have become the norm.”


Nia Imani Fields is the Maryland 4-H Specialist with the University of Maryland Extension (UME). She is the first African American to achieve principal agent with UME 4-H Youth Development. She is the second to achieve this accomplishment within the UME department at large. As a Maryland 4-H Specialist, Dr. Fields is primarily responsible for the design, implementation and evaluation of curricular systems and program development. Her research interests center around positive youth development’s relationship to social capital and social justice. Dr. Fields also serves as the first UME ADVANCE professor and she is honored to provide support to her peers as we continue to grow the careers of women and racially diverse faculty within UME.


Belen Franch
Associate Research Professor
Department of Geographical Sciences
Behavioral and Social Sciences College
First woman in the Behavioral and Social Sciences College
to win the NASA Early Career Public Achievement Medal



“I am proud to be the first woman to receive the NASA Early Career Public Achievement Medal in my department. This is a recognition of my first ten years of my research career while I became the mother of two girls. I wish it could encourage women to pursue a scientific career despite the struggle to achieve a balance between personal and professional lives.”


Belen Franch is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, and a Science Collaborator at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She is recipient of the 2018 NASA honor award for Early Career Public Achievement, the most prestigious awards of the Agency. A major focus of Dr. Franch’s work is the use of remote sensing data for agriculture monitoring, atmospheric correction in the solar spectral range, the study and application of BRDF inversion methods, and land surface albedo estimation and analysis. Dr. Franch received her Ph.D. degree in physics from the University of Valencia (Valencia, Spain) in 2013. She is author or co-author of 37 peer reviewed articles in SCI journals and has presented over 70 works in international conferences. She has participated as researcher in several projects funded by ESA, the European Union and NASA and is currently PI of three NASA projects. She also co-leads the yield working group in the NASA Harvest consortium.


Sharon Fries-Britt
Department of Counseling, Higher Education, & Special Education
College of Education
First African American Woman to rise through the ranks
of Assistant Professor to Associate Professor to
Full Professor in the College of Education &
First recipient of the Women of Color Award,
President’s Commission on Women’s Issues



“It was a surprise to learn that I am the first African American female promoted from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor to Full Professor in the College of Education. Holding this position in the history of the College, and the University, is an honor. I am certainly looking forward to more women of color being tenured and promoted in the College. While I encountered challenges in my journey to Full Professor, there was always more light than darkness, and I had the support of countless individuals.”

“Being selected as the first recipient of the Women of Color Award was quite frankly humbling. I had mentors on campus at the time that I would have selected over myself. I am not discounting my own contributions to the university; I just know that there were many individuals who could have easily taken my place.”

Sharon Fries-Britt is a Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education. Dr. Fries-Britt’s research examines the experiences of high achieving Black individuals, underrepresented minorities in STEM, and issues of race, equity, and diversity. The National Science Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, and the National Society of Black Physicists have funded and supported her research. She is a member of the American Institutes of Physics National Task Force to Elevate African American Representation and a faculty co-lead and co-author of the recently published ACE report “Speaking Truth and Acting with Integrity Confronting Challenges of Campus Racial Climate.” Dr. Fries-Britt has consulted extensively with colleges and universities, foundations, governmental agencies, national organizations, and private industry on issues of race, equity, diversity, and leadership. Recently, she was selected as a 2019-2020 Distinguished Scholar-Teacher.


Glori Hyman
Lecturer & Director
Institute of Applied Agriculture
College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
First woman Director of the Institute of Applied Agriculture



“As a kid growing up in a farming community, I saw men running the farms, heading businesses, and leading organizations. When I started teaching here, there were many times I was the only female in the classroom. It’s changing now, and about 35% of our students are women. I hope I can inspire these women to take leadership roles in ag-related fields. Breaking traditions is tough, but it’s happening.”


When Glori Hyman joined the Institute of Applied Agriculture faculty in 1990, she had not intended to make it her career. However, the IAA’s mission, students, faculty and staff won her heart and she stayed for three decades. She spent her first 17 years as a Communications Instructor, then added “Acting Director” to her duties in 2007. She was named Director in 2012. Under her leadership, the IAA added three new concentrations: Sports Turf Management, Sustainable Agriculture, and Agricultural Leadership and Communication. In addition, she created Agriculture Forward at Maryland, a program that opened new pathways for many of the state’s residents who wanted to pursue agriculture-related degrees at the University of Maryland.


Linda Schmidt
Department of Mechanical Engineering
A. James Clark School of Engineering
First woman to receive tenure in the
Department of Mechanical Engineering



“I received a lot of advice from both male and female colleagues on ‘how to fit’ in order to be successful. I was just too stubborn to follow all the advice, and this risk gave me a lot of anxiety. Earning tenure gave me confidence in being myself and demonstrated that the traditional professor model is becoming more inclusive.”


Linda C. Schmidt is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland and an ASME Fellow, who joined the University of Maryland in 1995 as an Assistant Professor. In 2001, she became the first woman to achieve tenure in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Her research interests are in understanding the process by which early stage, engineering design tasks are successfully completed in order to create effective methods for learning design and preserving knowledge that arises in the process. Her current work involves studying student design journal content for insight on thinking during design. Schmidt is also George Dieter's co-author for the 4th, 5th, and upcoming 6th editions of the McGraw Hill text “Engineering Design."


Laura Stapleton
Professor & Associate Dean
Department of Human Development & Quantitative Methodology
College of Education
First woman to reach the rank of Professor in the
Measurement, Statistics & Evaluation Program



“I think that it is quite telling of the current culture of the Measurement, Statistics and Evaluation program that, until this nomination, I had not even realized that I was the first female to be promoted to the rank of Professor. The support that I have received from my mentor and colleagues in the department made it an easy and, more important, enjoyable journey.”



Laura Stapleton is Associate Dean for Research, Innovation, and Partnerships in the College of Education. She is also a Professor in Measurement, Statistics and Evaluation in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology. She joined the faculty at Maryland in the fall of 2011 after being on the faculty in Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and in Educational Psychology at the University of Texas, Austin. Prior to earning her Ph.D. in 2001, she was an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and, subsequently, conducted educational research at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and as Associate Director of institutional research at the University of Maryland.


Bonnie Thornton Dill
Professor & Dean
College of Arts & Humanities
First African American woman Dean
of College of Arts & Humanities



“I am pleased to have an opportunity to bring new perspectives and experiences to the leadership of the College of Arts and Humanities and am grateful to the many people who have contributed to my journey. Their guidance, support, encouragement, and confidence in my ability to handle the challenges and hyper-visibilty that comes with being a ‘first’ have been gratifying. One of my goals is to help develop more leaders who will bring even greater diversity to the University of Maryland and to higher education across the United States.”


In 2011, Bonnie Thornton Dill was appointed Dean of the University of Maryland’s 550-plus-faculty, 3,500-student, 14-department College of Arts and Humanities. The first African-American woman ever to hold the Dean’s title in the college, Dean Thornton Dill has worked to increase support for and the visibility of arts and humanities research and scholarship; provide leadership for interdisciplinary initiatives within the college and across the campus; support student engagement with underserved communities; and increase the number of UMD’s national scholarship award recipients. A pioneering scholar on the intersections of race, class, and gender in the U.S. with an emphasis on African-American women, work, and families, she is founding director of both the Center for Research on Women at the University of Memphis and the Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity at UMD.


Christy Tirrell-Corbin
Clinical Professor & Executive Director
Center for Early Childhood Education & Intervention
Department of Human Development & Quantitative Methodology
College of Education
First woman (and person) to reach level of
Clinical Professor
in the College of Education



“I have experienced the evolution of what it means to be a faculty member and professor on the University of Maryland campus. At the time of my original appointment, Clinical Faculty positions did not exist on the UMD campus. The adoption of Clinical Professor appointments, as well as guidelines for promotion, allowed me to highlight my accomplishments in the areas of teaching, service, and scholarship. Moreover, the promotion process provided validation of those contributions at the department, college, and campus levels. As the only (full) Clinical Professor (male or female) in my College, I am now in the position of serving as a mentor for junior faculty, which makes this trajectory even more meaningful.”


Christy Tirrell-Corbin is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology in the College of Education, where she is the Director of the Early Childhood/Early Childhood Special Education Program and the Executive Director of the Center for Early Childhood Education and Intervention. Dr. Tirrell-Corbin’s current research projects focus on trauma sensitive pedagogy and high quality learning experiences for young children.


Min Wang
Department of Human Development & Quantitative Methodology
College of Education
First Asian woman to become a Full Professor in the
Department of Human Development & Quantitative Methodology



“I am proud of being the first Asian woman to be promoted with the full professorship in my department. I had excellent male and female role models, and I could see how achieving this position has paved the way for others in my department and college. Being first could mean challenge, but it was also exciting and rewarding.”


Min Wang received her Ph.D. in Applied Cognitive Science from the University of Toronto in 2000. Upon graduation she completed her post-doctoral training at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. She became a member of the Faculty of Human Development at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2002. Dr. Wang was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2008 and promoted to Full Professor in 2014.


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