STEM Central

A Community of Practice for NSF STEM Projects

Three Factors for EXCEL’s institutionalization success: Faculty Coalition, Rigorous Assessment, and Administrative Support. (EXCEL series:post 3)

Welcome to the current installment of my blog describing my experiences, lessons learned, and road bumps as I worked with my many colleagues from UCF, to develop the successful University of Central Florida’s EXCEL program.  I hope you will enjoy reading about my experiences and garner tips and ideas for making your STEP program successful.

EXCEL is now a program that has been institutionalized by the University of Central Florida. EXCEL has been operating as one of the units in the UCF Office of Undergraduate Studies (since Spring 2010) and its financial support started in the 2011 fiscal year (July 1, 2011). The financial support for EXCEL is provided by the Provost’s Office, the Graduate College, and the Deans of all STEM Colleges at UCF.

There are three factors that contributed to EXCEL’s institutionalization success. Factor 1: The strong coalition of faculty and staff who have supported the EXCEL efforts from its proposal submission phase to present, Factor 2: The rigorous assessment plan to evaluate EXCEL’s successes, and Factor 3: The strong support of the UCF administration. In this posts I’ll talk about factor 1, with more detailed discussion of factors 2 and 3 coming in future posts.

Factor 1: Faculty Support: EXCEL was conceived in 2003 when the first STEP proposal was submitted to NSF. This proposal did not fare very well and the reviewers’ major concern was that it lacked cohesiveness and focus. A second proposal submission in 2004 was also declined with the reviewers suggesting that we should better articulate the problem that we are solving and we should limit our focus on one of the STEP’s main goals either recruiting students in STEM disciplines or retaining students in STEM disciplines. Our third submission to NSF (in 2005) was successful and resulted in the nowadays referred to as the EXCEL program at UCF. One of the advantages, of a three year, persistent submission of STEP proposals was that the eventual team of faculty/staff contributors to the proposal effort in 2005 consisted of individuals that felt passionate (Factor 1:Faculty Support) about the goal that the EXCEL effort has put forth to fulfill. Another advantage of the three-year-submission odyssey was that the UCF administration demonstrated a vested interest in this effort (Factor 3:Administrative support), since for 3 years in a row it provided strong support for the program (cash and in-kind support for the $1.8M NSF grant).

Obtaining the funding for our STEP proposal was clearly a big hurdle to overcome.  However, implementing our ideas proved equally as hard.  Please keep reading my future posts to learn about more about early challenges and how we overcame them.  Also, please share your comments and ideas below. What challenges did you have in engaging faculty and staff to support the implementation of your STEP grants?