NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub: Building a National Network to Advance Equity in STEM
Shari Gardner & Kate Goddard, SRI International
Kate Goddard and Shari Gardner, representing the NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub, presented information about the role of the Coordination Hub in advancing the NSF INCLUDES vision to change the narrative of STEM inclusion. The coordination HUB strengthens a common vision among those working to improve equity and inclusion in STEM; brokers connections among Network members and across sectors, measures progress and impact across the Network via a shared measures system; promotes success of Network members, and elevates expertise by curating resources to support learning, action, and sustainability; and advances the field by sharing discoveries, broadening engagement, and catalyzing action that improves STEM inclusion and equity. Kate and Shari highlighted work from the NSF INCLUDES Alliances and Design and Development Launch Pilots to illustrate the growing network of partners committed to developing a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse STEM workforce, and shared opportunities for engagement with the National Network, including the website, an online community, social media, a newsletter, affinity groups, and events.
Promoting Universal Design to Create a Culture of Inclusion
Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington
An inclusive environment lets in everyone who meets requirements with or without accommodations and makes sure everyone feels welcome and engaged. Ability exists on a continuum, where all individuals are more or less able to see, hear, walk, read print, communicate verbally, tune out distractions, learn, or manage their health. Most disabilities are invisible and many students and staff don’t report their disabilities to disability service offices. Regardless of where a person falls on this continuum and whether they request accommodations, we want to ensure that they have access to the classes we teach and resources we share. Students’ identities are also multi-faceted, which means we must consider an intersectional approach that acknowledges that some students are from more than one underrepresented group.
How society views disability has changed throughout the years. People with disabilities historically have been eliminated or excluded from society, segregated from the general population, aimed to be cured, rehabilitated, accommodated, and finally, accepted and included as they are. The modern approach has its roots in social justice and aims to allow all people to feel included, including those with disabilities.
In K-12 education, every child is offered a free and appropriate education in as integrated setting as possible. Once students reach postsecondary education, they must meet the entrance requirements with or without reasonable accommodations. There are two approaches for making college and university campuses accessible: accommodations and universal design (UD). Accommodations are reactive and allow us to address the inaccessible features of a product or environment to make it more accessible to a particular individual who finds it inaccessible (e.g., captioning a video when a student with a hearing impairment requests it). Universal design is a proactive approach to create a product or environment accessible to the widest group possible (e.g., captioning all videos by default). A building with stairs at the entrance and a separate ramp for people with wheelchairs is technically accessible, while a building with a single entrance that everyone can use is universally designed. Universal design doesn’t just help people with disabilities—sloped entrances help people moving carts, and captions help those learning English or in noisy environments, as just a few examples. Universally designed technology should have built in accessibility features and ensure compatibility with assistive technology.
UD of instruction is an attitude that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. It can be implemented incrementally, focuses on benefits to all students, promotes good teaching practice, does not lower academic standards, and minimizes the need for accommodations. UD can be applied to all aspects of instruction, including class climate, interactions, physical environments and products, delivery methods, information resources and technology, feedback, and assessment. To review an easy to use checklist, visit Equal Access: Universal Design of Instruction. For more tips, you can follow my 20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course found online.
Why Accessible Information Technology is Critical for an Inclusive Project
Gaby de Jongh, University of Washington
Assistive technology (AT) is software, hardware, devices, or equipment that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. AT includes both devices and services. Many “high tech” and “low tech” devices are available to assist people with disabilities overcome barriers to completing daily tasks, such as reading and writing documents, communicating with others, and searching for information on the Internet.
People with mobility disabilities use a variety of technologies. Some technology assists individuals with little or no use of their hands in using a standard keyboard. Individuals who have use of one finger, or have access to a mouth- or head-stick or some other pointing device, can control the computer by pressing keys with the pointing device, and software utilities can create “sticky keys” and other options to enhance accessibility.
People who are blind or have low vision cannot access visual materials and need a system that can read text out loud or create braille with an embosser or a refreshable display. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, captions and translators are often needed for videos or conversations. People with learning disabilities use a wide variety of technology depending on their specific disabilities; examples include software that can read text aloud or input text from speech, dictation, and alternative color options.
An example of an individual who uses multiple forms of high tech assistive devices is Stephen Hawking. He uses a combination of eye tracking, augmentative communication device, head array, and power wheelchair; check it out here. For more examples of how computer technology and AT can assist people with disabilities, read the publication Working Together: People with Disabilities and Computer Technology.
Northeastern U.S.: Best Practices in Broadening Participation
All participants: On Post-it Notes, write promising broadening participation practices that could be implemented in ERCs (pink), INCLUDES projects (blue), and in departments/institutions (yellow).
The Keys to STEM Success for Urban Youth
Alaine Allen, University of Pittsburgh
Through an NSF INCLUDES Design and Development Launch Pilot called Diversifying Access to Urban Universities for Students in STEM Fields, a team of faculty, program directors, and student researchers at the University of Pittsburgh worked collaboratively to identify how pre-college programs can more effectively prepare students to persist through college graduation as STEM majors. Through literature searches, faculty interviews and student focus groups, the team developed a list of the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind most prevalent in successful STEM majors. Critical knowledge and skills identified during the project include understanding of math, verbal and written communication skills, reading comprehension skills, critical thinking and scientific reasoning skills, awareness of STEM opportunities, and awareness of the college selection process. Important habits of mind include the ability to take risks and process failure, collaboration, curiosity, ownership of learning, persistence, understanding the relevance of STEM, responsibility, a sense of belonging or having a STEM identity, and time management. Student focus groups resulted in the following observations: connecting STEM to everyday life is important, mentoring and being mentored is of high value, a typical “STEM knowledge and skills list” can feel intimidating, and learning time management is imperative. While many students shared stories of initial struggles and many experienced challenges related to impostor syndrome, students reported they were motivated by high expectations and mentoring.
S-TEAMS Improve Sense of Inclusion for Underrepresented Groups
Amy Tuininga, Montclair State University
Studies have shown that through team activities and shared communication, students gain empathy and build trust. These collaborations help build diversity in research, which supports better critical thinking and problem-solving within STEM disciplines. The Sustainability Teams Empower and Amplify Membership in STEM (S-TEAMS) project examines alternative approaches to broadly enhancing diversity in STEM, such as methods to build a sense of community and perceived program benefits. The S-TEAMS project centers around STEM work in the field of sustainability, which allows students to deeply engage in active learning and creates a supportive environment for students from underrepresented groups to come together with expertise from multiple backgrounds and disciplines.
Each team consists of five members, each from a different discipline such as biology, chemistry, computer and information sciences, geography, geology, mathematics, physics, and sustainability science. They work together for ten weeks in the summer on real-world projects with corporations, government organizations, and nongovernment organizations. After intensive work developing project deliverables for hosting organizations, the majority of S-TEAMS participants indicated positive experiences working as part of a team with other students and overall felt part of the group. These experiences transcend disciplines and backgrounds to build pathways forward toward graduate and professional schools and careers. During the study and work, the project connected with prospective employers during interviews and placement of S-TEAM students.
University of Florida (UF) & the Consortium of Minority Doctoral Scholars (CMDS) Programs Collaborative Best Practices
Michael Smith, National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. (GEM)
The INCLUDES Consortium of Minority Doctoral Scholars (CMDS) identifies best practices in recruiting and retaining Hispanic and African American/Black doctoral students in engineering, computing, and information sciences. CDMS focuses on the role of mentorship in pursing graduate studies in STEM fields. Drawing from a sample of students and administrators from three of the nation's largest and oldest minority doctoral scholars programs (National GEM Consortium, McKnight Doctoral Fellows, and the Southern Regional Education Board), interviews were conducted with 67 participants (17 administrators and 50 students). In an effort to broaden participation, retention, and success of underrepresented students in STEM through all levels of academia to graduate with a doctorate and to further pursue academic positions, the project focuses on qualitative data that examines in-depth experiences and perceptions of program participants as a contribution toward constructing a framework for mentoring underrepresented students in STEM fields.
The collective impact framework was at the core of the partnership formed between the University of Florida (UF) Computer and Information Science and Engineering Department, UF Graduate School Office of Graduate Minority Programs, and the UF Informatics Institute, as well as the three doctoral scholars programs, with the purpose of sharing key data and collaborating in new ways. The core best practice focuses on data sharing and a formal data sharing agreement. The keys of success of the agreements are threefold: 1) personal data management core values, 2) ensuring protection of personal data (no harm to participants rule), and 3) data sharing that builds bridges under the collective impact framework.
Expanding Diversity through the Creation of Learning Opportunities for Minority Students
Aristides Marcano, Delaware State University
The DDLP proposal Expanding Diversity in Energy and Environmental Sustainability through the creation of learning opportunities for minority students in the Mid-Atlantic region seeks to establish a network of institutions dedicated to broadening participation in the fields of renewable energy, environmental, food, and agricultural sustainability as part of an INCLUDES Alliance. Delaware State University, a historically-black university, is the leading institution of the effort. The project proposal was formed with the participation of the private sector, the local community, the Capital School District, nine universities and two laboratories within the United States Department of Agriculture (Agriculture Research Services), among other organizations.
The project will help ensure students have clear paths to job opportunities as it seeks to:
- Build a network of institutions with active collaboration in the areas of renewable energies, environmental, food, and agricultural sustainability.
- Build a pipeline for education on renewable energies and sustainability that start in local K-12 institutions, continue into the baccalaureate degree, and forward into the job market or graduate program within the network.
- Strengthen the bachelor of science (BS) degree in Green Energy Engineering and BS Degree in Renewable Energy at Delaware State University.
LiFE: Collaboration Potentials and Partnerships
James Lipuma & Cristo Leon, New Jersey Institute of Technology
The LiFE project aims to develop and strengthen STEM clubs for 3rd - 6th grade girls and incorporate leadership, collaboration and other skills through interactions with role models and through participation in various support activities and auxiliary events.
The project vision is to demonstrate the small-scale success of existing work and develop a customizable playbook that can be used to replicate the project across the country. Over the longer term, we hope LiFE will grow to become a “cradle to career” project with a network of women at all stages of education and career mentoring and being mentored by near-peers toward success in STEAM pursuits. Thus, the project will gather partners to create an alliance and pursue funding opportunities (including to become a backbone of an NSF INCLUDES Alliance) that will enable the program to expand nationally.
Southeastern U.S.: Best Practices in Broadening Participation
All participants: On Post-it Notes, write promising broadening participation practices that could be implemented in ERCs, INCLUDES projects, and/or in departments/institutions.
An Integrated Approach to Retain Underrepresented Minority Students in STEM Disciplines
Sarwan Dhir, Fort Valley State University
The long-term goal of the proposed project is to enhance recruitment, retention, productivity, and satisfaction of underrepresented minority (URM) students who enroll in STEM graduate programs, particularly at primarily white/research-intensive (PWI/RI) institutions that award most of the PhDs in STEM. The immediate goals are two-fold: (a) to empower URM students to more effectively navigate STEM undergraduate and graduate programs at minority-serving (MSI) and PWI/RI institutions and (b) to effect a collaborative transformation of the culture at PWI/RI institutions and better support URM students in STEM graduate programs.
The collaborating universities will work together for the purposes of empowering URM students to more effectively navigate STEM undergraduate and graduate education at MSIs and PWIs, as well as for transforming the culture of PWIs and RIs. The team plans to use evidence-based approaches to gain insights into cultural differences that impact the success of URM STEM students. The pilot study will facilitate undergraduate URM student exchanges between MSIs and PWIs; collaborative inquiry to engage URM students in social science research about issues and experiences of under-representation in STEM; and the adaptation of resources from the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) to train STEM faculty to embrace diversity and improve teaching in diverse classroom settings. The project seeks to answer the following questions:
- Can an academic year “exchange program” be designed to enhance underrepresented students’ cultural competence and thereby academic success in STEM disciplines?
- Can underrepresented students’ experiences at PWI/RI and MSI institutions be mined to identify aspects of institutional culture that enhance or limit their success in STEM disciplines? learning-through-diversity and offer more inclusive instruction?
- Can underrepresented students’ experiences at PWI/RI and MSI institutions be harnessed to train STEM educators to value?
Early STEM Engagement for Minority Males
Kamal Ali, Jackson State University; and Derrick Gilmore, Kentucky State University
Select minority-serving institutions are partnering together to increase the number of minority males in STEM through an INCLUDES DDLP project called Early STEM Engagement for Minority Males (eSEM). The project hosted a workshop and developed a driver diagram in 2017, launched three Network Improvement Community (NIC) workgroups in 2018, and implemented NIC Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles starting in 2018.
The project serves middle school students, who are young enough to feel the best effects and growth of interest. Middle school student participants are offered an intensive summer STEM-based course for 2 to 4 weeks, as well as a monthly one-day program during the Fall and Spring semesters. The project draws its focus from efforts at Kentucky State University and Jackson State University.
Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships: Broadening Participation In STEM Education in Rural Georgia
Shawn Utley, Wiregrass Georgia Technical College
The Wiregrass Georgia Technical College’s (WGTC’s) NSF Georgia Science, Technology and Engineering Partners for Success (STEPS) project continues to grow beyond its original intent and projections. In an effort to recruit and support diverse individuals in STEM education opportunities, WGTC aggressively pursued Concurrent Enrollment opportunities throughout its 11 county service area. While serving 28 high schools in rural south Georgia, WGTC identified early on that they possessed the resources to address the multiple NSF broadening participation challenges posted in 2008, which include need for increased number of underrepresented students involved in STEM; more inclusion of community college in NSF funding; enhancing the infrastructure for research at community colleges; and geographic expansion of NSF funding to rural Institutes of Higher Learning (IHE).
Concurrent enrollment was identified as the critical vessel in offering college-level STEM instruction to high school students located in geographically, economically, and access challenged schools. These opportunities prepare students for university enrollment as they learn about the design, development, and integration of robotics; applying automation technologies to a real world work problem; and using analytical skills.
Interdisciplinary Research Between Social Science and Engineering
Chien-fei Chen, CURENT, University of Tennessee
Informing engineers of social science research can allow them to pay more attention to issues that might be related to equity. Interdisciplinary research between social science and engineering brings many benefits, particularly added creativity and learning opportunities. Such research is especially important because different minds can come together to solve critical problems, as well as critically evaluate the data and knowledge coming together. However, there are many challenges to such integration. It can be difficult for people from different academic backgrounds to communicate, manage similar timelines and commitments, and/or find who falls into what roll of a project. It can often be timely and expensive for social scientists to meet computer scientists or engineers and work on the issues.
Central U.S. & Louisiana: Best Practices in Broadening Participation
Theoretical Frameworks: So What Are They Good For, Anyway?
Sylvia Mendez, University of Colorado Colorado Springs
Theoretical frameworks provide a lens through which individuals approach research questions philosophically, analytically, and methodologically. Theories are a set of interrelated constructs, definitions, and propositions that present a systematic view of a phenomena by specifying relationships among variables with the purpose of explaining, predicting, and understanding said phenomenon. A good theory is created when it can:
- Provide a simple explanation of the observed relations relevant to a phenomenon
- Be consistent with both the observed relations and an already established body of knowledge
- Be considered a tentative explanation and should provide means for verification and revision
- Stimulate further research in areas that need investigation
Theoretical frameworks provide a structure to hold and support a theory in the context of a research project. Identifying an optimal theoretical framework can be achieved by being well-read in the field of social science, and discussing various frameworks with colleagues. A framework plays a key role in understanding almost every aspect of a study—it helps one make reasoned decisions throughout a research endeavor. They focus a study, reveal and conceal meaning and understanding, situate the research, and reveal strengths and weaknesses.
Applying Systems Thinking to Broadening Participation
Liz Lehman, University of Chicago
Project Systems-Thinking Approach to STEM Ecosystem Development In Chicago (SYSTEMIC) is an NSF INCLUDES DDLP that aims to increase the participation of black youth in Chicago's Austin neighborhood in STEM programming. Project SYSTEMIC is unique in its application of systems thinking methodology to tackle this complex problem: avoid a top-down approach, build from the ground-up to wrestle with systemic challenges alongside community members, and think about Austin as an existing STEM learning ecosystem, with diverse assets and complex relationships.
Project SYSTEMIC is about supporting the community to map the existing ecosystem, navigate it, and design localized strategies to broaden participation. Systems thinking allows the project team to tackle complex problems by focusing on the interactions and interdependencies of elements of the systems. This approach has identified community stakeholders by working with local leadership, engaging those groups in systems thinking methods to map the current STEM learning ecosystem in the Austin neighborhood, and supporting the community to use their map to discuss changes.
Including Families of URMs in the SEAS Your Tomorrow INCLUDES Program
Nastassia Jones, Southern University and A&M College
The Supporting Emerging Aquatic Scientists (SEAS) Your Tomorrow program is a collaborative proposal between the University of the Virgin Islands, Pennsylvania State University, and Southern Utah University that focuses on building scientific identity to increase interest and engagement in STEM, particularly marine sciences, among students in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The program includes three targeted intervention points: (1) field experiences in the marine sciences for middle and high school students, (2) early field research experiences for college freshmen and sophomore students, and (3) bridge to the PhD style programming for graduate students. This program also highlights intervention support programming across all intervention points, including tiered mentoring and mentor training for partners and participants, individualized development plans, and family programming to support student success.
Because of the importance of family, the project invites families to be a part of activities via videoconference sessions both at the beginning and end of the project. The goals of the family programming events are to explain the overall focus of the program, expose family members to the continuing education and career opportunities available through scientific research, allow family members to hear the overall account of their participant’s learning outcomes and experiences through the project, and outline a potential pathway for their participant to progress from undergraduate to graduate to career. Initial observations from this project include positive feedback and new revelations from family members, who are empowered to better support their student in progressing towards career goals.
Utilizing Partnerships to Address Challenges in STEM Career Education
Kelly Johanson, Xavier University
Xavier University of Louisiana is a historically Black and Catholic university known for its success in preparing students for medical and pharmacy school. Hundreds of new science students, predominantly from groups underrepresented in STEM, make up the freshman class each year with most citing Xavier’s strong pre-medicine and pre-pharmacy programs as their reason for attending. Over half of the pre-medicine or pre-pharmacy students either change their major or do not pursue their original career goal for a number of different reasons. Unfortunately many who fall into this category do not pursue a career in STEM, often due to a lack of knowledge about the different career options available outside of medicine or lack of preparation for graduate school.
A major initiative of the Xavier National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Building Infrastructure through Diversity (BUILD) program at Xavier is focused on developing effective ways to educate these science-minded students about the different types of careers available after obtaining a STEM Ph.D. Partnerships with research-intensive universities through both BUILD and NSF Broadening Experience in Scientific Training – Beginning Enhancement Track (BEST-BET) programs have allowed the team to pilot two different STEM career education activities designed to address challenges faced in encouraging our students to pursue a Ph.D. Students participating in these activities report an increased awareness of career options, more clarity with regard to their career goals, and a better understanding of what the graduate school experience is like. These activities can be adapted for use with undergraduates at both public and private universities to address similar challenges.
Western U.S.: Best Practices in Broadening Participation
Biosphere 2 Earth Systems Science for Diverse Research Experiences
Kevin Bonine, University of Arizona
Biosphere 2 is a large-scale research and education facility at the University of Arizona well suited for Earth systems science that is only possible because of the scale, control, and measurement capabilities of the 3-acre enclosed structure. Key research questions have included ocean and rainforest responses to elevated carbon dioxide, precipitation drivers of nascent soil formation, and the effects of temperature on plant physiology and microbiome variation. The Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) is the flagship research project at present, with expanding research on tropical soils, ocean corals, and food production systems.
Also on site is a residential casita village with 100 sleeping rooms and conference facilities. This capacity—along with the active science program, exploration by 100,000 annual visitors (10,000 being K-12 students) and university student training—makes Biosphere 2 a vibrant, multi-dimensional science hub. NSF has funded a decade of summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) with students living at Biosphere 2 for ten weeks. Efforts to increase the diversity of participating students have paid off, with emphasis on Indigenous students. With each cohort, the team invests time and energy into building a cohesive cohort wherein diversity is valued and celebrated, and students feel empowered to support and rely upon each other while at Biosphere 2.
Because of the demographic composition of the REU cohorts, the team applied to be an INCLUDES Pilot program with collaborators at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, CO in an attempt to provide multiple years of research and mentoring support for Indigenous students. Other elements of the INCLUDES Pilot focus on connecting to communities and youth through shared development of earth systems research projects.
Letting Students Lead the Way to Inclusive Excellence
Pam McLeod, Stanford University
Re-Inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt) is an interdisciplinary, multi-institution engineering research center focused on ways to manage urban water systems. Over the past three years, ReNUWIt has increased efforts to accelerate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the center. ReNUWIt aims to build an inclusive climate, recruit a more diverse population of students and researchers, and expand pipeline efforts.
ReNUWIt’s unique DEI organizational structure has resulted in student-led change. For example, center leaders have facilitated high student leadership within DEI, and very successful initiatives focused on graduate admissions reform and shared tools for inclusive excellence.
Science Across Cultures: Neuroscience for Tibetan Buddhist Monastics
Eric Chudler, University of Washington
The Science for Monks program was established in 2001 to bring western scientists to India to conduct workshops to share concepts about western science with Tibetan monastics in exile. The Education Director at the Center for Neurotechnology, an ERC at the University of Washington, has participated in the program for 7 years. Benefits to western scientists include the reflection on one’s own teaching practices, discovery of the limits of specific methodology and an understanding of possible new ways to acquire knowledge.
Traditional monastic education involves years of philosophical training including logic, debate, and contemplative practices. Neuroscience has been a featured topic within the workshops by combining didactic teaching with hands-on demonstrations, experiments and scientific inquiry. The language barrier between western scientists and the monastics has been overcome by using English-Tibetan translators who often help create Tibetan words for neuroscientific concepts that do not have suitable translations. Engaging with monastic scholars who come from different cultures, speak a different language and are new to science presents exciting challenges and opportunities. Developers of engineering programs and instructors should consider these characteristics of their students to ensure that course materials are developed with appropriate language and attention to differences in learning abilities.
Engaging Individuals with Disabilities at an Engineering Research Center
Scott Bellman, University of Washington
Promising practices of the Center for Neurotechnology, an ERC at the University of Washington (UW) engage people with disabilities in all aspects of the Center. Further details are available online in a publication called Promising Practices That Engage People with Disabilities in the CNT. The strategies were presented in five broad categories:
- Recruitment and Engagement
- Develop strategic partnerships, including those with disability and veteran service units, and employ joint recruitment strategies.
- Recruit people with disabilities, including veterans, onto advisory boards and leadership teams.
- Develop outreach activities and programs especially for students with disabilities, including veterans, and also recruit individuals with disabilities into programs for all students.
- Promote disability awareness.
- Highlight the achievements of people with disabilities.
- Include images of people with disabilities and information on how to request accommodations in promotional materials.
- Encourage faculty, staff, and student leaders to engage in disability-related conferences and training opportunities.
- Share disability-related practices at conferences.
- Accessibility of Facilities, Information Resources, Products, and Activities
- Apply universal design and provide reasonable accommodations.
- Consult with individuals with disabilities in design of labs and facilities.
- Conduct website, document, and video accessibility reviews and remediate.
- An Inclusive Climate
- Consider disability as a diversity issue.
- Provide mentoring opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
- Address disability-related issues in grant proposals to enhance and expand ERC initiatives.
- Data Collection and Evaluation
- Collect disability status along with other demographic information in application and evaluation forms.
- Analyze data to determine the effectiveness of activities for people with disabilities.