Advancing STEM Education
NSF initiative brings together different scientific disciplines and diverse communities of faculty and students–often on the same campus
Seven institutions received funding in fiscal year 2009 through Innovation through Institutional Integration, or I3–an effort intended to link institutions’ existing National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded projects in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and to leverage their collective strengths. Awards were for up to $1.25 million over four years.
As a cross-divisional activity in NSF’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR), I3 promotes increased collaboration within and between institutions. It also addresses important directorate initiatives: broader participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM, critical educational junctures, the integration of research and education, a globally engaged workforce and research and evaluation.
“Through I3, institutions have opportunities to strategically integrate the STEM educational enterprise in ways that can dramatically change the student experience,” said Wanda Ward, NSF’s acting assistant director for the Education and Human Resources directorate. “The innovations being implemented by I3 awardees are impressive and illustrate the creativity of the nation’s colleges and universities at all levels. We expect this effort will change the way many institutions think about STEM education and its impact on the nation’s diverse student population.”
The I3 awardees for fiscal year 2009 follow.
Arizona State University’s I3 Modeling Institute integrates a number of funded endeavors at ASU to generate an enduring STEM certification and professional development program for elementary school teachers to become middle school science and mathematics teachers. Drawing on NSF/EHR-sponsored initiatives in STEM teacher education, the Modeling Institute leverages the successful aspects of many prior programs and prior research projects while opening a dialogue among scientists, mathematicians, and educators who have worked separately in the past, to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Using a program of study that integrates modeling as the core construct, the I3 effort is intended to produce 200 middle-grades STEM educators, to develop 10 STEM sustainability-themed master’s level courses, and to support these STEM educators as professionals through the establishment of professional learning communities, a professional development network, and learning opportunities. Additionally, graduates will be equipped with a toolbox of knowledge and skills to broaden participation in STEM studies by engaging students in dynamic mathematics and science learning.
“In the fields of mathematics, science and engineering, we are working collaboratively with school districts and the various departments and colleges on our four campuses to provide continuing education for teachers, said Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Capaldi, in announcing the grant this fall. “Among our major priorities is ensuring that all teachers are equipped with deep content knowledge, are passionate about their fields of expertise and their teaching, and are well-prepared to develop the talents of their students.”
For more on the Arizona State’s I3 project, go here.
The Rutgers University I3 project is titled, “Institutionalizing the IGERT Innovations.” IGERT refers to NSF’s Integrative Graduate Education Research Traineeship program, which supports the education of graduate students with interdisciplinary research as a foundation. Existing IGERT projects at Rutgers include work that brings together stem cell biology with research in biomaterials, process engineering, and computational modeling in a study of stem cells; and a study that links nanotechnology and engineering in a research project on pharmaceuticals. The Rutgers I3 effort will leverage and integrate the best practices and resources of a number of existing STEM research and training programs, including four NSF-IGERT awards. The program expects to enhance both vertical integration (enabling smooth transitions in early undergraduate through professional career stages) and horizontal integration across STEM disciplines. The project will focus on preparation for graduate education, transition to graduate education, and preparation for and transition to research careers in academia, government, and industry while increasing the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups. At each of these junctures, cross-disciplinary coordination and recruitment efforts will efficiently utilize existing programs and create new programs that broaden participation in STEM studies by traditionally underrepresented groups. The mechanisms for integrating across these programs include coordination of recruitment and admissions, matching students with faculty and student mentors, holding joint symposia across disciplines, establishing an integrated structure for graduate orientation activities, and developing a coordinated mechanism to augment graduate student education with career training and preparation.
“With this grant, we are excited about developing a model that will recruit, retain, mentor and educate graduate students to become leading scientists in the nation.” said Jerome Kukor, interim dean of the Graduate School-New Brunswick and the dean of academic programs at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers. “The future depends upon innovators in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.”
For more information on Rutgers I3 project, go here.
The major focus of the Integrated STEM Initiative on the South Plains (ISISP) is to build a long term base where K-12 students across the 84,000 square mile region of Texas are attracted to study STEM disciplines at Texas Tech University (TTU). By consolidating the recruitment and coordination process of TTU’s funded STEM programs, the Initiative expects to enable TTU to extend and enhance the impact of their STEM outreach, especially for underrepresented populations. ISISP will reduce redundant efforts and create synergistic efficiency by centrally coordinating NSF/EHR awards from several programs. ISISP will further the I3 goals of broadening participation and critical education junctures by increasing recruitment of high quality, diverse high school and community college students, by stimulating interest in STEM studies in K-12 students, by creating a formal pathway from high school to a college STEM degree, and by increasing the number of baccalaureate degrees earned at TTU by underrepresented groups. The integration across awards facilitated by I3 will enable TTU to provide more widespread outreach to rural schools and additional mentoring of STEM students to enhance retention in degree programs.
“This I3 award has provided administrative and faculty resources that enable Texas Tech University to coordinate its K-12 outreach activities,” said Guy H. Bailey, President of Texas Tech and principal investigator for its I3 project. “It has generated increased visibility for outreach, and has created an enhanced synergy among its existing NSF programs.”
More information on TTU’s I3 effort is here.
The Aaniinen-Nakoda Environmental Excellence Center (ANEEC) of Fort Belknap College (FBC) will bring together five existing awards–including an NSF Tribal College and University Program (TCUP) award–that foster two major themes of I3: the integration of research and education, and the encouragement of broad participation in STEM studies. ANEEC will enable FBC to develop and strengthen its academic capacity in STEM studies with a cross-disciplinary approach, faculty development, and by tying academic curriculum in STEM courses to summer research opportunities available to students. The project expects to foster the development and retention of high quality, culturally sensitive faculty with ties to the community. A centralized administrative system will coordinate a framework for research recruitment and programming that will enhance participation by FBC students, 95 percent of whom are American Indian and underrepresented in STEM fields. The project will be planned, developed, and implemented by a centralized management team who will receive input from an external advisory committee and a Council of Elders drawn from Tribal members. The management structure will enable an infusion of cultural sensitivity and native knowledge, as well as industry and educational expertise, into all aspects of education and research in STEM studies throughout FBC.
“In establishing the Aaniinen-Nakoda Environmental Excellence Center, Fort Belknap College’s I3 project will transform the way we do STEM education at our institution,” said Deborah His Horse is Thunder, dean of academic affairs and principal investigator for the I3 effort. “The project brings together all of the college’s environmental research and education projects under a common administrative umbrella to provide students with an engaging and relevant STEM experience that fully integrates classroom instruction and environmental research opportunities, while grounding student learning in the culture and traditions of the Aaniinen and Nakoda nations.”
For more information, go here.
Through its I3 award, Vanderbilt University will expand its successful Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program with Fisk University to a new partner institution–Delaware State University–and a new discipline–materials science. The project, Broadening Participation in Materials Science through Institutional Integration, builds upon a robust model of successful institutional transformation and integration in the disciplines of physics and astronomy. Now, the educators leading the Bridge program expect to increase synergy and collaboration across NSF-funded programs while scaling up the existing Bridge program to include materials science. This I3 award will help broaden minority participation in materials science and further the long term goal of expanding the reach and impact of the Bridge project, in which collaborative scientific research serves as glue between institutions and a stream through which students flow more seamlessly across institutional divides and critical education junctures. Leveraging significant institutional support already in place, this award expects to enable dramatic increases in the production of well-prepared, underrepresented minority Ph.D.s in materials science and lay a foundation for truly understanding how to best design the model to ensure successful portability into new disciplinary and institutional contexts.
“The Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D Bridge program was established in 2004. In just five years the program has attracted 31 underrepresented minority students, 60 percent of whom are women, and has become the nation’s top producer of blacks earning master’s degrees in physics,” said Vanderbilt Provost Richard McCarty. “Since 2006 Fisk University has awarded about a third of the nation’s African American master’s degrees in physics. This significant investment by the federal government is a dramatic recognition of the success of the joint Fisk/Vanderbilt program. The complementary strengths of Fisk’s and DSU’s master’s degree programs and Vanderbilt’s Ph.D. programs have combined in a remarkable fashion that provides minority students with the support, encouragement and the skills that they need to succeed in the physical sciences.”
More information is available here.
At Michigan State University, the Center for Academic and Future Faculty Excellence (CAFFE) will connect, integrate, and increase the capacity of projects that target stages of the collegiate “pipeline” resulting in the production of STEM professionals. The project will integrate across four NSF-funded projects to develop a mentoring and professional development pathway for early career and future STEM faculty. Many groups and programs are presently making individual contributions to the development of new professionals, and these separate efforts will be interconnected and enriched by the I3 initiative. CAFFE will coordinate the offerings of several programs to optimize the development of attitudes, values, and behaviors essential for smooth transitions across critical education junctures and the development of a workforce successful at meeting the 21st century challenges of the professoriate. This I3 aims to deviate from the linear view of the “pipeline” analogy and to focus on individual, rather than cohort, needs that may become evident at different times throughout an academic career. Drawing on existing programs, the unique and individualized model of CAFFE expects to ease the transition from undergraduate to graduate education and encourage retention and preparation for the professoriate, especially in underrepresented groups.
“CAFFE is a compass to help negotiate pathways to becoming a successful STEM faculty member,” said Kim A Wilcox, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Michigan State University, and principal investigator for the I3 project. “It enables MSU to focus and integrate existing programs and activities and to develop new ones to prepare graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty to be successful faculty. We expect CAFFE to enhance the professional development of a diverse set of graduate students, postdocs, and junior faculty in parallel with their efforts as research scholars to meet the needs of the U.S. STEM workforce.”
The City Tech I-Cubed Incubator: Interdisciplinary Partnership for Laboratory Integration is the I3 project of the City University of New York (CUNY) New York City College of Technology. This effort is designed to achieve meaningful integration of a central element in STEM education, one that cuts across all STEM disciplines-basic and applied-the laboratory. The program will create a cross-project management structure for grant funded STEM lab research programs. Building upon existing NSF awards, the Incubator will create a common framework for outreach, student engagement, industry involvement, diversity goals, and significant learning outcomes. The Incubator furthers the I3 goals of broadening participation by enabling underrepresented students to engage in applied STEM learning, of integrating research and education with a focus on inquiry based research as a means of learning, and of developing a global workforce by expanding industry representation within the college to enhance their technological workforce needs through collaborative education projects.
“This initiative will change the way that STEM lab courses are taught at the college by reimagining the lab experience in the College and building outside relationships.” said Provost Bonne August. August, Professor Vasily Kolchenko (biological sciences), Dean of Arts and Sciences Pamela Brown and Dean of Technology and Design Robin Bargar are co-principal Investigators for the project.
More information is here.
Image 1: One of the elements of I3 effort to prepare middle school math and science teachers is a STEM Summer College-for-Kids, a two week summer day camp for 11-14 year olds. Here, a student holds a large South African beetle. Credit: Charles Kazilek, Arizona State University
Image 2: Two students work on a research project as part of Rutgers’ I3 effort. Rutgers’ goal is to develop a model that will recruit, retain, mentor and educate graduate students to become leading scientists in the nation. Credit: Nick Romanenko
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