Auburn University, Alabama State University, Tuskegee University and Vanderbilt University will lead this Design and Development Launch Pilot to form the SouthEast Alliance for Persons with Disabilities in STEM (SEAPD-STEM), eventually creating a network of 21 universities and colleges, as well as additional community colleges and high schools, in the southeastern U.S. and Washington, DC. This project was created in response to the Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES) program solicitation (NSF 16-544). The INCLUDES program is a comprehensive national initiative designed to enhance U.S. leadership in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) discoveries and innovations focused on NSF’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and broadening participation in these fields. The INCLUDES Design and Development Launch Pilots represent bold, innovative ways for solving a broadening participation challenge in STEM.
The full participation of all of America’s STEM talent is critical to the advancement of science and engineering for national security, health and prosperity. Our nation is advancing knowledge and practices to address the STEM education practices for recruiting, better educating, retaining and graduating STEM secondary and postsecondary students with disabilities (SWDs) at our nation’s high schools, colleges and universities. However SWDs historically underperform in STEM at the secondary and postsecondary levels. This project, NSF INCLUDES: SEAPD-STEM, has the potential to significantly advance a collaborative approach by a group of organizations to improve the success of SWDs in STEM disciplines.
The project builds on the existing Alabama Alliance for Students with Disabilities in STEM (AASD-STEM), a NSF-funded model, and includes a plan to form a larger regional alliance focused on training STEM SWDs across the academic pathway from high school through postdoctoral training and entry into faculty positions. The collaboration addresses five goals: (1) To increase the quality and quantity of SWDs completing associate, undergraduate, and graduate degrees in STEM disciplines and entering the STEM workforce, (2) To increase the quality and quantity of post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty with disabilities in STEM fields, (3) To improve academic performance of students with disabilities in secondary level science and mathematics courses, (4) To enhance communication and collaboration among post-secondary institutions in addressing the education of SWDs in STEM disciplines, and (5) To assess project activities to understand what works to support the matriculation and retention of STEM SWDs in science followed by broad dissemination through workshops, conference presentations, webinars, and peer-reviewed publications. The team proposes the following project activities in the pilot: (1) Implementing a Bridge Model at 13 partner institutions, including Alabama State University, Auburn University, Auburn University Montgomery, Gallaudet University, Jackson State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Southern Union State Community College, Troy University, Tuskegee University, the University of Alabama Birmingham, the University of Tennessee, the University of West Georgia and Xavier University of Louisiana (2) Implementing SEAPD-STEM training workshops, (3) Implementing NSF INCLUDES Alliances planning workshops in each participating state, at Kennesaw State University, Tougaloo College, the University of Alabama in Hunstville, Vanderbilt University and Xavier University of Louisiana, (4) Gathering enrollment, retention, and graduation baseline data for STEM SWDs by race, ethnicity, and gender at 21 colleges and universities institutions, (5) Identifying high schools and school districts for each of the participating institutions for outreach activities, (6) Adding at least one community college to partner with SEAPD-STEM college or university, (7) Engaging additional partners including national and local labs, non-profits, federal agencies, industry, foundations, and state governments for additional funding and/or internships for participating SEAPD-STEM students. The project team will implement a plan to scale approaches and develop an alliance of institutions to maximize potential project outcomes now and in the future.