We partnered with Growth Sector, a workforce development intermediary and Saddleback College on the evaluation of the National Science Foundation’s STEM Core Initiative. The project was funded by the NSF INCLUDES program (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) and received a 9.9 million dollar grant to scale the pilot nationwide.
NSF INCLUDES is a comprehensive national initiative designed to enhance U.S. leadership in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) discoveries and innovations by focusing on diversity, inclusion and broadening participation in these fields at scale. NSF INCLUDES is one of the 10 “Big Ideas” for Future NSF Investment. These “Big Ideas” are meant to capitalize on what NSF does best: catalyze interest and investment in fundamental research, which is the basis for discovery, invention and innovation, as well as education and research infrastructure. The vision is to catalyze the STEM enterprise to collaboratively work for inclusive change, which will result in a STEM workforce that reflects the diversity of the nation.
The California Community College system is the nation’s largest and most diverse educational system and is the most valuable resource to meet the workforce needs of California’s growing STEM economy. Most of the 2.4 million students entering community college, however, lack the math, computer, and communication skills to pursue these high-growth, high-wage technical careers. Growth Sector, in collaboration with community colleges, foundations, and employers such as the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore Lab, have reimagined traditional educational models and created a new, innovative pathway to engineering and computer science opportunities called the STEM Core Initiative (SCI).
The goal of the SCI is to address barriers to accessing STEM pathways by enabling remedial level math students to become calculus-ready in one year and to advance to industry internships, computer science and engineering degree pathways, and ultimately, high-demand, high wage jobs and careers. The focus of the NSF DDLP grant was to develop and implement an enhanced STEM Core model that leveraged learning from early pilot efforts. The funded initiative was tailored to and implemented at both their current SCI campuses and a set of five new campuses.
A key objective of the NSF INCLUDES initiative is to engage current NSF awardees working on broadening participation as well as the broader STEM community in the creation and development of the NSF INCLUDES National Network. To help provide connections to this community, NSF is supporting efforts that: create, analyze and aggregate knowledge and assessments; implement, expand and sustain effective practices; contribute to fundamental research in the science of broadening participation; and foster connections to the entire NSF portfolio that can lead to a change in the culture of STEM by placing inclusion and equity at the core. By building the infrastructure for partnerships, communication and collaboration, NSF aims to advance and scale up what works in broadening participation programs to reach underserved populations nationwide.