On November 3-5, 2022, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) hosted their annual Transforming STEM Higher Education conference in Arlington, Virginia. This year, the conference was titled “Back to Broken? Accelerating Undergraduate STEM Education Reform‘‘ to reflect on the dire need for advancing undergraduate STEM reform amidst a global pandemic, racial uprisings, and deep sociopolitical divides.
The goal of this conference was to provide an opportunity to investigate and challenge the systems, structures, traditions, and beliefs that continue to privilege some students while disadvantaging others. Additionally, the conference encouraged attendees to ask themselves the following questions:
- Do I have the audacity to challenge my own core beliefs?
- Do I have the courage to break down and rebuild my institution’s structures, traditions, and beliefs?
- Am I bold enough to accept the narratives that tell us we must “transform,” not just reform, undergraduate STEM education?
The three-day event consisted of hundreds of sessions, ranging from talks to interactive workshops to research presentations, all focused on various aspects of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in higher education STEM programs. On day three of the conference, Brian Sato (Associate Dean of the UCI Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation [DTEI]) and Sabrina Solanki (Senior Research Associate at the DTEI Postsecondary Education Research & Implementation Institute) gave a presentation titled “Intersegmental Models to Improve Transfer Student Success.” Their presentation aimed to foster discussion around the existing barriers to and support structures for building strong two-year/four-year campus collaborations, specifically in the context of improving transfer student success
During their session, Sato and Solanki established community colleges as a key component in increasing diversity in STEM fields. More specifically, they identified the lack of meaningful collaboration between two- and four-year institutions as a major roadblock in the successful transfer and degree completion of STEM students. They then discussed two efforts to build two-year/four-year campus collaborations, funded by the National Science Foundation and overseen by the DTEI.
The first effort they described was the Biology Education Intersegmental Collaborative (BEIC). The BEIC is a research coordination network made up of two- and four-year faculty learning communities. Through this collaboration between higher education institutions, the BEIC aims to facilitate the co-development, implementation, assessment, and dissemination of evidence-based practices in STEM courses or programs.
The other effort they discussed was the STEM Transfer Pathways Conference, a three-day event that brought together two- and four-year institutions from across California to establish research partnerships between campuses. The goals of the conference were to foster transfer student success, increase student participation in STEM, and improve student diversity in STEM fields. With these goals in mind, the conference agenda was designed to familiarize participants with institutional data to evaluate transfer student success, consider other types of data that could assess this outcome, and construct a plan to evaluate transfer student support found on their campus.
After introducing these efforts, Sato and Solanki concluded their presentation by asking the audience to consider the relevancy of these programs to their institutions and discussing structures that support and limit meaningful cross-institutional partnerships facilitating successful STEM transfer.
Reflecting on the conference, Solanki said:
“The presentation went very well! I was excited to hear from a number of folks from the audience who shared their interest in participating in future iterations of BEIC and the STEM Transfer Pathways Conference. Their interest, enthusiasm, and remarks during the Q&A reinforced the need for institutional leaders to make more intentional efforts to build collaborative bridges between two-year and four-year campuses. I hope to continue to be a part of these efforts in the future at UCI!”
Visit the AAC&U website to learn more about the Transforming STEM Higher Education conference. Visit the BEIC website to learn more about this program. Visit the 2022 STEM Transfer Pathways Conference website or check out this article to learn more about the conference.