NSF INCLUDES DDLP: Southeastern Compact for Inclusive Student Transitions in Engineering and Physical Sciences (SCI-STEPS)
Physical science and engineering remain the least diverse of all STEM fields---with regard to women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities---across all levels of STEM education and training. SCI-STEPS is an NSF INCLUDES Design and Development Launch Pilot that will address this persistent challenge by developing a complete end-to-end pipeline (or system of pathways) from the beginning of college to the PhD, and then into the workforce. Many isolated efforts to broaden participation have shown promise, but they have not produced big enough impact. SCI-STEPS represents a concerted set of coordinated interventions---consciously facilitated, systemically linked, and purposefully disseminated. SCI-STEPS represents a broad regional network among major research universities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, comprehensive universities, community colleges, national labs, and major scientific organizations. The goal of the network is to ensure that underrepresented individuals in the physical sciences and engineering can get from their starting point in STEM higher education---freshmen at 2-year or 4-year college---through the higher education pathways leading to an appropriate terminal degree and employment in the STEM workforce.
Women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities collectively represent the majority of college-age individuals entering higher education with an expressed interest in physical science and engineering. A growing body of research indicates that academic and social integration may be even more influential than academic abilities for retention of students. Thus, interventions aimed at stemming the losses of these individuals must ultimately be aimed at changing the system---including unwelcoming institutional climates, racial/ethnic/gender stereotyping, a lack of mentors with whom to identify, and evaluation methods that emphasize conformity over individual capabilities---rather than changing the individual. The SCI-STEPS pilot focuses effort on institutional readiness for implementation of best practice interventions at four key junctures: (i) college freshman to sophomore; (ii) undergraduate to graduate; (iii) PhD to postdoc; and (iv) postdoc to workforce.The pilot will proceed in three steps: (1) a planning phase, (2) development of an initial end-to-end pathways model with four Juncture Transition teams, and (3) scale-up of the SCI-STEPS "network of networks" with all initial partners. By addressing these objectives through a collective impact framework and embedded research, this pilot will demonstrate how best-practice interventions at each pathway juncture can be dovetailed and scaled up across a broad range of institutional types and across a large but distinct geographical area. Addressing these objectives will thus also serve to advance Broadening Participation efforts at a national scale, by suggesting the forms of institutional partnerships and best-practices that may inform other alliances in other STEM disciplines and/or different regional areas.
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