STEM Central

A Community of Practice for NSF STEM Projects

Closing Remarks -- STEP 2014

Here is a transcript of Connie Della-Piana's remarks at the close of STEP 2014:

Good morning.
Thank you to all the speakers and presenters, for thought-provoking and intellectually engaging presentations - and as catalysts for good conversations and discussions and for reviewing and making new connections.

The meeting organizers have asked me to speak a bit about the STEP program.  It will be brief.  I fully recognize that I stand between a famous Lee Zia haiku or two and the end of the meeting. 

I would like to begin with just a bit of history.  The STEM Talent Expansion Program has its roots in the 2001 Technology Act and was part of the 2002 NSF Reauthorization.  STEP was established to increase the number of students (US citizens or permanent residents) receiving associate or baccalaureate degrees in established or emerging STEM fields.

Since 2002, the STEM Talent Expansion Program has made over 250 to close to 300 awards to institutions.  Each project identifies factors that can derail would-be scientists and engineers and addresses those factors by instituting evidence-based and evidence generating practices.

• STEP Type 1 projects plan for and implement evidence-based practices dedicated to recruitment, retention, and graduation of STEM students at academic institutions.

• STEP Type 2 research projects examine factors associated with STEM degree attainment.

STEP also supports three special funding opportunities
• STEP Centers support groups of faculty representing a cross section of institutions of higher education and housed in a discipline that address a national challenge or opportunity in undergraduate STEM education through a comprehensive and coordinated set of activities.

• An NSF/Intel and GE Foundation partnership supports the Graduate 10K+ projects that focus on the first two years of computer science and engineering.

A hallmark of STEP is its support of the range of higher education institutions from 2-year institutions to research universities.

As evident in the agenda for the 2014 STEP Grantees Meeting, the STEP community is incredibly thoughtful and active in improving and transforming undergraduate STEM education.  Thank you for your hard work and dedication in supporting the success of students, faculty, and institutions.

As mentioned in the presentations by Drs. Jo Handelsman, Joan Ferrini-Mundy, and Susan Singer, STEP has made large contributions to the implementation of academic and social support and curricular and pedagogical evidence-based practices to transform higher education and contributions to the knowledge base on factors associated with degree attainment in STEM. 

To be up front – things change.  Programs evolve.  The Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program is the next STEP in the evolution of the undergraduate STEM education community – for a radical revolution.  I-USE provides our community with an opportunity to think and act “outside the box” – by integrating innovation, development, and implementation with intentional and systematic examination of what is working, with whom and under what circumstances. 

A take-away is that the STEP community is well positioned to STEP into the future as champions and leaders of undergraduate STEM education.

Thank you.

Now for some reminders:

  • Complete and submit your STEP Annual Survey.  ICF International leads this effort.  The program uses the information for reporting to the program’s stakeholders.  For example the program provides information on the numbers of students who participate, the number and types of institutions that are funded, and the types of evidence-based practices being implemented to the NSF, to Congress, or to the Government Accountability Office.
  • We plan to hold 3rd year reviewers for projects that are in their first and second years.  We will be getting information out to you.
  • There is a program evaluation that has started.  RMC is conducting the evaluation.  Please participate in the data collection when contacted.
  • Document the quality of the implementation of the project’s activities.  Evidence is important as echoed in the speakers’ presentations.
  • In writing the Project Outcomes Report for Research.gov.  Describe project expectations and actual outcomes – particularly degree attainment.  This is a program supporting increased degree attainment and transfer) in STEM.  This is a report for the public that is posted on a government website.
  • Elements of STEP will continue in I-USE.
  • Leverage elements in STEP with elements in TUES and WIDER – think “outside the box” of these programs.
  • And utilize STEP Central.

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