Volume V: Then, Now & In the Next Decade

Lessons Learned About Leadership in STEM Transformation

What works when leadership teams take responsibility for building and sustaining a robust research-rich, interdisciplinary STEM learning environment that serves all students?

This was the question driving PKAL’s NSF-funded Leadership Initiative [LI] (2004 – 2007). Our strategies to address that question included identifying and analyzing the policies, practices and programs on campuses having demonstrable success in shaping, implementing, and assessing such a learning environment. What we found was a remarkable similarity in the process of institutional transformation within a leadership culture. The PKAL Planning Process, one formal product of the LI experience, reflects a synthesis of what happened on campuses when there was a community of leaders working to shape and achieve their collective vision of robust student learning in STEM fields.

Key to the process is recognizing the power of having the right question on the table. In the final report to NSF, we identified questions explored by a sample of the presentations at one or more of the LI seminars, including those below. During 2008 – 2009, we will be disseminating these stories, interviews and reports.

  • Recognizing that contemporary tools and perspectives within the neuroscience community make empirical investigations within the reach of today’s undergraduate community, how can we teach neuroscience so that all students at Allegheny College have the opportunity to use these tools to come to understand how science, as a human enterprise, is internally connected and linked to other disciplines?
  • Recognizing that the skills and capacities gained through a robust undergraduate STEM learning experience are essential learning outcomes for all our students, how can we raise the level of scientific and technological understanding of non-majors through an emphasis on collaboration in science (STEM) education across the sixteen campuses of the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS)?
  • Recognizing that over 50% of all undergraduates in STEM fields are at community colleges, what kind of collaborations (between Harold Washington and other community colleges, four-year colleges and universities) can be developed to engage more community college students in the kind of authentic research that encourages them toward further study and to careers in STEM fields?
  • Recognizing that there is a common set of laboratory skills and techniques across disciplinary boundaries, how can undergraduates at Harvey Mudd College come to see the connections between and within technical disciplines, to see science and engineering as a continuum, rather than as a set of discrete boundaries?
    An Investigative Interdisciplinary Lab: The Harvey Mudd College Story
    How to Design, Implement, and Sustatin an Investigative Interdisciplinary Laboratory: A Presntation by Gerald Van R. Hecke
  • Recognizing, from our own experiences and our study of research on how people learn, that the undergraduate research experience is a key to ensuring students adapt the “identity” of the scientist or engineer, what can we do to continue and enhance Hope College’s research-rich learning environment?
    The Role of a Provost in Undergraduate STEM Research: An Interview with James Boelkins
    The Hope College Story from the Provost's Perspective
  • Recognizing the increasingly quantitative dimension of all STEM fields as they are practiced, where in their learning do our undergraduates at Macalester College have the opportunity to develop the quantitative understandings and skills directly applicable to their majors in the science disciplines?
  • Recognizing that today’s STEM students will have opportunity to become members of a global STEM community, how can we capitalize on the unique capacities of the University of Arizona (a Research I university) to give our undergraduates the kind of research-rich, international opportunities for learning that would ensure their successful socialization into that community?