Biophysicist Karen Fleming wins $50,000 Provost's Prize for Faculty Excellence in Diversity

She was recognized for her efforts to support gender equity in STEM fields

Susan Courtney, Karen Fleming, and Fenimore Fisher

Image caption: From left: Susan Courtney, Karen Fleming, and Fenimore Fisher

Image credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins biophysicist Karen Fleming has been awarded the Provost's Prize for Faculty Excellence in Diversity for her pioneering work supporting gender equity in science fields and addressing issues such as bias and discrimination in higher education. The prize, which is accompanied by a $50,000 honorarium, acknowledges faculty efforts to address a broad spectrum of issues relating to gender and racial diversity.

She was honored during a ceremony held Wednesday on the university's Homewood campus and hosted by the Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Council.

In addition to her role as a professor of biophysics in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Fleming works to support gender equity in science fields and to address the different forms of bias that may affect scientists in higher education and in their careers. She has created workshops, forums, panels, and blogs dedicated to discussing such issues from a research- and science-based perspective. She helped spearhead the Women of Hopkins project, an exhibition that celebrates female trailblazers who have made a mark on society during or after their time at Johns Hopkins, and she co-chairs the Women Faculty Forum at Homewood, which works to advocate for equitable practices and policies and to expand leadership opportunities for women faculty.

Fleming shares her work with students and faculty at Johns Hopkins and other universities. She has twice presented at diversity workshops at the international meetings, and this spring presented a session titled "Nurturing a More Inclusive STEM Enterprise by Understanding Our Biases" at the Biophysical Society annual meeting. The session, staged as a short drama on the issue of unconscious bias, starred Johns Hopkins graduate and undergraduate students and drew a crowd of more than 100 international guests. One attendee remarked that the drama helped her identify biases she didn't realize she had toward people from different backgrounds.

"Dr. Fleming has a bold vision that the academy can be better," wrote her colleagues, Anne-Elizabeth Brodsky, a senior lecturer in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and Jeffrey Gray, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, in a nominating letter. "She lives it by striving to deal with her own biases (we all have them) and by sharing the facts and the vision. Dr. Fleming seeks structural ways to improve instruction, research, academic experiences, and professional societies."

Yolanda Abel, Susan Courtney, and Fenimore Fisher

Image caption: Yolanda Abel (far left), an associate professor in teaching and learning at the School of Education, was also named a finalist for the Provost's Prize and awarded a $10,000 honorarium for her scholarship and outreach in Baltimore City schools

Image credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Winners of the Provost's Prize for Faculty Excellence in Diversity are selected by a 10-member committee representing all nine academic divisions and including past winners and finalists for the award.

"I am so honored to be selected for this distinction," Fleming said. "This award recognizes the work we can all do to nurture a more inclusive STEM community."

A full transcript of her remarks can be read online.

Yolanda Abel, associate professor in teaching and learning at the School of Education, was also named a finalist for the Provost's Prize and awarded a $10,000 honorarium. She was recognized for her scholarship and outreach in Baltimore City schools working to promote college access, parental involvement in learning, and financial literacy and life skills.

"Excellence in scholarship, research, and problem-solving depends on an inclusive community of diverse voices and perspectives, and these awards are a chance to celebrate the important work that Johns Hopkins faculty members do to promote diversity and inclusion on and off our campuses," said Susan Courtney, vice provost for faculty affairs and a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

The Diversity Leadership Council, which hosted Wednesday's awards ceremony, is made up of students, faculty, and staff from across Johns Hopkins who work to support the university's goals of diversity and inclusion. During the ceremony, the DLC recognized 11 individuals and four groups for their work advancing and celebrating diversity at Johns Hopkins. They are:

  • Sharon Bord, School of Medicine
  • Jerrell Bratcher, Development and Alumni Relations
  • Melissa Chang, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences
  • Rachel Cohen, Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Sherita Hill Golden, School of Medicine
  • Sandra Lin, School of Medicine
  • Supriya Munshaw, Carey Business School
  • Ronald Ostrenga, Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Liz Skerritt, Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Alexandra Sneider, Whiting School of Engineering
  • Maurisha White, Johns Hopkins Health System
  • The APL Technology Leaders and Scholars Internship Program
  • Epidemiology Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Science Workgroup, Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Identity and Inclusion Co-Facilitators, Homewood Student Affairs
  • Oasis in the Food Desert, Johns Hopkins Community Physicians