The Network

Jump down to: Purpose of the Network | Goals of the Network | Anticipated Outcomes | Participants of the Network

Project Leadership Team »With the remarkable attention being paid to STEM education nationally, with the growing engagement of universities and colleges in STEM education reform, and with the proliferation of STEM education centers assisting universities to achieve these STEM education reforms, we are building a potentially transformative form of infrastructure: the Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC). This work is funded under grant #1524832 from the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program of the National Science Foundation.

As of August 2017, NSEC currently links 201 STEM Education Centers/Institutes/Programs (SEC) at 163 institutions (from 297 SECs at 218 institutions identified to date). Yellow stars indicate institutions with centers with a profile at NSEC. Blue stars are centers that are engaged with NSEC through meetings and the listserv.

Purpose of the Network

The network is an organization of campus-based centers and offices that will serve as a catalyst for broader national educational transformation in STEM, including research on teaching and learning STEM disciplines at all levels.

The purpose of the Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC) is to support and amplify the work that STEM Education Centers are doing to improve undergraduate education by

  1. Building a learning, research, and implementation network for centers via conferences, workshops, communications, staff interactions, and an online platform.
  2. Showcasing, celebrating, and understanding the work of centers that are transforming undergraduate STEM education via case studies, research on center impacts, and center profiles.
  3. Serving as a resource and catalyst for centers, policy-makers, funders, administrators, and the public on what works in STEM education via a national online platform of effective practices and programs, directory of experts in STEM education, and research on effective center and institutional practices, and center impacts.
  4. Creating a coalition of actors that can address and engage in practices that are cross- and multi-institutional via seed grants for collaborative research and implementation proposals.
  5. Collectively working to improve institutional and national policies which strengthen undergraduate STEM education through guiding documents, participation in national dialogues, and policy statements.

Coming together as a network will allow those interested in STEM education reform to have a central place for information and approaches appropriate for center leadership, administrators, state and national policymakers. We are building a network that brings together the work of individual centers to help solve common and challenging issues in STEM education reform: translating research into practices that will spread, be adapted, and sustained across a campus and across the academy. This network addresses calls from the White House (Olson & Riordan, 2012) and National Academies (Singer et al., 2012) for multi-institutional / nation-wide approaches to scaling STEM education reform. While the more than 150 offices of STEM education have a variety of structures and titles, this network involves campus units with research and faculty activities that focus on the transformation of undergraduate teaching and learning of STEM disciplines.

Goals of the Network

The network is a community of centers that helps address key needs of centers, university administrators, funders, policymakers, and national constituents.


NSEC supports centers' needs for community and networking; increased institutionalization of STEM education centers; sustainable funding; and resources, strategies, tools, and access to national discussions on supporting transformation of undergraduate STEM education.

University leadership

To increase institutionalization and legitimacy of these centers, the network will help them demonstrate their high value to university administration via rich cross-institutional learning; research on center impacts that support investments in these organizations; access to funders; and national recognition via their center's accomplishments.


To support funders, policy-makers, and external constituents, NSEC is leveraging the vast expertise of the community of centers to help solve national challenges in education and are implementing these solutions across the network of centers. We seek to establish NSEC as the one-stop-shop for supporting transformation of undergraduate STEM education.

Anticipated Outcomes

The broad array of potential outcomes from building the network include:

  • supporting individual centers by sharing resources, models, people, and awareness and recognition;
  • identifying the research, programmatic, and cultural challenges that STEM education centers are particularly well-positioned to undertake;
  • developing critical resources for proposed, nascent, and established centers, including searchable database of centers and directors/staff; communication resources for centers; indicators to evaluate projects within centers as well as the overall impact of centers; and best practices for collaboration with cross-campus and external stakeholders.
  • addressing the needs of university administration to identity the purpose and role of centers and their resource requirements to support the shifting needs of higher education;
  • establishing a dissemination pathway for findings throughout the network and beyond;
  • serving as a resource for external agencies interested in linking with center efforts or communicating with the STEM community;
  • promoting collective action to address larger scale challenges rather than university-specific efforts and serve as an action platform for advocacy and policy; and
  • developing a robust model of network formation, apply this to create community among STEM education centers, and enhance the capacity of individual centers to improve undergraduate STEM education.

Participants in the Network

As of August 2020, we had 236 institutions and organizations/associations who are involved in NSEC programming. Another 29 organizations were involved in co-sponsored meetings.

  • 20 institutions in a Research Action Cluster for Round 1 (2016).
  • 21 institutions in a Research Action Cluster for Round 2 (proposed for 2017); 8 of which are new institutions to a RAC.
  • 14 institutions in a RAC for Round 3; 8 of which are new institutions to a RAC.
  • 131 institutions/organizations have center profiles at NSEC.
  • 12 institutions have agreed to have us do a site visit.
  • 514 individuals representing 202 IHEs, 8 organizations, and 1 state government entity are on the listserv.
  • NSEC has a STEM Education Innovation Database with 40 practices, 12 of which were contributed from a NSF funded INCLUDES project (#1649214) and feature programs that lead to broadening participation from under represented groups.
  • 62 institutions attended the SMTI NSEC 2016 National Conference.
  • 52 institutions attended the NSEC 2017 National Conference.
  • 70 institutions attended the NSEC 2018 National Conference.
  • 58 institutions were represented at the NSEC 2019 National Conference.
  • 65 institutions were represented at the NSEC 2020 National Conference.
  • 36 institutions were represented at the POD/NSEC 2015 workshop.
  • 25 institutions participated in the NSEC 2016 Toolkit Workshop.
  • 42 institutions and 5 associations/organizations participated in the NSEC/ASCN Workshop on Diversity and Inclusion.
  • 10 institutions were selected for the Teaching Evaluation Workshop in 2020.
  • 19 institutions and 6 associations/organizations were represented at the STEM DBER Alliance Meeting at AAAS on November 18-19, 2016.
  • 34 institutions and 7 associations/organizations participated in the STEM DBER Alliance Meeting held at HHMI on May 8-10, 2017.
  • 32 institutions attended the Innovating Teaching and Learning in the Food - Energy - Water-Nexus: Toward a National Collaborative for Food, Energy, & Water Systems Education (NC-FEW) conference held May 22-23, 2018 in the Washington, D.C.
  • 30 institutions were represented at the SEMINAL+PTC+NSEC meeting held on May 29-31, 2019, in Lincoln, NE.

The Centers are drawing on insights from other efforts such as:

This STEM Education Centers Network also complements efforts from disciplinary and professional societies and others that have more targeted focus and communities, or do not engage centers directly. In this effort, we will bring leadership from these other key networks and will draw from their models of what works to ensure synergy rather than competition and to enhance the capacity of all networks.