Community College Research Initiatives

June 21, 2022

STEM transfer partners: A community of practice

A cornerstone of CCRI’s current work is building innovative transfer partnerships and equipping two-year and four-year institutions with the resources, knowledge, support, and time to develop partnerships between their institutions to improve student outcomes. The STEM Transfer Partnerships project launched this year and met for the first time in April, convening all 10 teams to begin our journey as a community of practice. The convening was designed to foster community, share information, and establish a roadmap for institutional transformation in order to improve STEM transfer success for low-income students. Together we identified barriers to degree completion and the steps to support transfer for low-income STEM students.

Our intention for the convening was that teams would get to know each other and us, reflect on their partnership, and begin drafting an individualized action plan. The project design prioritized productive time for team members to connect and take the initial steps in planning their partnership. Each of the team sessions was guided by partnership planning tools, and problem-solving protocols that provided structure and support to teams as they tackled the complex task of dismantling transfer barriers for low-income students. Each planning tool built successively on the previous one to culminate in a team action plan to improve their low-income STEM transfer student outcomes. We began by asking team members to define their current level of partnership and then set goals for their partnership in the future. After assessing where they are now and where they would like to be, teams had an opportunity to brainstorm opportunities for improvement. Many shared that using our planning tools, provided a framework that helped tremendously as they worked through identifying action items for the project. We were delighted to receive feedback that these breakout sessions were the most useful part of the day.

Overall we heard from participants that they learned a lot from one another, including new perspectives and great practical ideas. They commented how helpful it was to see that they are not alone in their experience of the challenges of their work. They also felt, as we do, that building trust and connection among faculty and staff and between institutions is key to growing successful partnerships.

We are grateful for our collaborators and we are impressed by the level of engagement of over 80 participants (on Zoom no less!), which is a testament to everyone’s deep level of commitment and dedication to this critical and timely work. A participant said, early on in the day, that this was the most time they had spent talking with their partner institution colleagues and what they were learning was very valuable. This latter comment speaks to the focus for our first STEM Transfer Partnerships data note to be published this summer. This publication will take a look at how transfer partnerships shift institutional culture from being siloed in their approach to supporting transfer students to one that strengthens the bridge from the 2- to 4-year institutions for students through interconnected policies and practices. Stay tuned!