2023 Collaborative Network for Computing and Engineering Diversity (CoNECD)

stEm Peer Academy: Building a Community of Practice

Presented at Session 5 - Track 3: stEm PEER Academy

stEm XXXX Academy {redacted title}

Keywords: engineering, undergraduate, race/ethnicity, gender

As part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) program, the new Engineering PLUS (Partnerships Launching Underrepresented Students) Alliance seeks to strengthen and expand the future United States engineering workforce by encouraging and supporting the identification, recruitment, and persistence of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and female students in engineering. To accomplish this, we seek to support evidenced-based interventions through the engagement and support of a professional learning community of “stEm PEERs” (i.e., science, technology, Engineering and mathematics Practitioners Enhancing Engineering Regionally), who will be equipped to facilitate the design, implementation, and assessment of evidence-based practices at their own institutions and beyond, and to build increased capacity through inclusivity and equity within the engineering academic experience. Our overall mission is to lead transformative, systemic and sustainable change that increases the growth rate in the number of BIPOC and women pursuing engineering to achieve a national target of 100,000/30,000 (BS/MS-PhD) degrees by 2026. The Alliance will leverage the wealth of best practices for broadening participation in engineering that has emerged from research over the last several decades to provide the collaborative infrastructure needed to support sustainability and scale-up of successful strategies.

One key component of the Engineering PLUS Alliance program is the development and scale of a professional learning community through engagement in the stEm PEER Academy. Our inaugural stEm PEER Academy engaged seventeen (17) practitioners from 15 United States higher education institutions, including community colleges, public and private universities and colleges, for a virtual kick-off week in June 2022. Practitioners applied to the program in Fall 2021 with an implementation project idea they wanted to subsequently develop at their own institutions that addresses the Engineering PLUS Alliance’s core mission. Applicants were reviewed and accepted based on their current experience, project focus and institutional commitment to implementation. The stEm PEER Academy participants explored the following topics over five virtual meeting days:

1) Understanding the engineering education pathway landscape with emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
2) Understanding models and interventions that work for women and BIPOC students to enroll and facilitate degree attainment.
3) Building partnerships and engaging stakeholders.
4) Planning, implementing, assessing, and scaling evidence-based strategies through a stEm PEER’s own implementation project.
Participants indicated in a qualitative survey they had a largely positive experience. They expressed a high degree of passion for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in STEM education. They agreed that their expectations had been met, particularly around enhancing their knowledge around high-impact practices (HIPs) in STEM education and forming a sense of connection and community.

Suggestions for improvement generally revolved around three themes:
1. Extend the program’s duration since five consecutive full-day meetings were an intense experience.
2. Expand networking opportunities, both regionally and within their cohort.
3. Increase direct mentoring between their fellow PEERs and with academy facilitators.

Future academies will address the outlined recommendations as the Alliance is scaled up.

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For those interested in:

  • Broadening Participation in Engineering and Engineering Technology
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  • undergraduate
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