Center for Research in SEAD Education

Our mission is to produce evidence-based contributions through a cycle of research, practice and evaluation.

Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ
Established: 2015

Profile submitted by Liesl Baum

Vision and Goals

The Center for Research in SEAD Education (CRSE) is a uniform mechanism for research of formal and informal SEAD education. Through development of rigorous and cutting-edge assessment and evaluation methods, the CRSE will broaden awareness of, and participation in, research in PK12 STEM- and SEAD-based initiatives at the university, thus positioning Virginia Tech to make contributions to programmatic change in STEM education, and become a leader in STEM workforce development from early childhood through professional practice.


  1. Establish partnerships and foster STEM- and SEAD-based coordination with PK12 schools.
  2. Develop and conduct STEM- and SEAD-based needs assessments to strengthen alignment between university research project goals and existing school and initiative needs.
  3. Design and implement evaluation plans for STEM- and SEAD-based PK12 initiatives to identify impact and outcomes.
  4. Conduct evaluation analyses and create project reports to communicate broader impact across networks.

Center/Program Structure

The CRSE is a unit within the Institute of Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT). At Virginia Tech, institutes are units independent from colleges, yet work collaboratively across colleges to advance research, teaching, and outreach. CRSE personnel report to the ICAT director, who reports directly to the provost. The CRSE works within and across university units, and engages in a range of external industry and community collaborations to advance high quality STEM/SEAD-related learning experiences to all, from preschool through university. The unit is run by a director who works collaboratively with a team of other full- and part-time personnel as well as graduate and undergraduate student researchers. Other personnel include an outreach coordinator, an assessment research associate, faculty fellows, and consultants as needed. All personnel engage in teaching, research, and outreach that advance the centers' mission.

Are there advantages of being structured this way?

The advantages are that the CRSE works across the university, and advanced goals that represent the interests that best advance the university mission and values. This allows us to speak directly to the Provost's vision, with the provost as well as the entire university community. This transcends shifts in specific unit priorities.

Are there particular challenges that result from this structure?

While the university priorities and initiatives tend to accelerate new initiatives and support existing ones, college and institutes tend to direct individual faculty and staff work as evaluation and rewards programs art targeted to this level.


As the CRSE is a new unit, personnel and operational funding is currently being provided by the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT). The expectation is that this will be base funding with additional monies being accrued through partnerships on grants, contracts, and foundation support. Given the broader impacts component of this center, our responsibility will be to develop a database to assess the collective impact of VT efforts on PK12, local communities, and industry. As such, additional funding from the Office of Research and Innovation is expected to cover this part of our work. Finally, because of the overlap between broader impacts and the university's College Access Collaborative program, the Office of Undergraduate Affairs is also providing funds to support a college awareness program for Title I elementary schools, and the development of formal partnerships with schools that have been targeted for recruitment in order to attract more underrepresented students to Virginia Tech.

How has this funding structure influenced the undergraduate STEM education programming the center offers?
Our main contribution to the undergraduate STEM education programming is through the courses taught and outreach programs sponsored through ICAT. Because of the additional sources of funding, we work directly with the Offices of Admissions, College Success, and Undergraduate Affairs to try to coordinate all PK12 outreach activities in our target schools. Many of these activities require undergraduate student volunteers who use these programs as opportunities for community engagement, advancement of their research, or independent study programs.

What are the specific advantages of having a center funded in this way?
The value of multiple funding sources across the various offices requires that we be connected to all of the facets of upper level administration. Further, because we work across colleges and institutes, we maintain that university-level approach that facilitates communication across units.

What are the challenges?
Given the reliance on primarily E&G (one-time) funding from each of the offices, and the fact that budgets are set so late in the fiscal year for the upcoming year, long-term planning is challenging in terms of hiring and commitments to constituents. Also, as true for many new centers, we are in the position of having to promise a lot of services, but not quite sure we will have the personnel to complete all tasks at a high quality.

Has this funding structure has changed over time?
VT-STEM (the prior STEM education center) had consistently received the same amount for 14 years, with consistent contributions of personnel and in-kind contributions from partnering units. Given the new center's home and funding structure, we are working through the impact of the changes on programming, personnel, etc.

Description of Programming

Our research and evaluation programming is just being launched and includes faculty professional development in proposal development related to broader impacts, and workshops on evaluation, partnership development, and broader impacts, through the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation (OVPRI). Our outreach and undergraduate education programming includes coursework on creativity, design and innovation, the Virginia Tech Week of Science (VT Science Festival and STEM Summit), ICAT/Expo Day, and Kindergarten-to-College (K2C) – a college awareness program for children from Title I schools.

Successes and Impacts

The impact of the new center is yet to be realized. The existing programming that is being carried forward due to success includes:

  • Coursework: ICAT personnel teach courses in the Honors College about creativity, ideation, innovation, and entrepreneurship, to be transitioned into broader undergraduate offering through the College of Engineering, College of Business, and College of Architecture and Urban Studies (industrial design) this coming AY. The course will be offered as part of a suite of courses in the to-be-approved (est. 2016/2017) Innovation Pathways Minor. The course averages 25 students per semester, with a proposed increase of enrollment to 50 students per semester, starting fall 2016.
  • VT Science Festival: Over 7,000 participants each year. Events are held across the state in collaboration with all VT extended campus locations, extension centers, and the Science Museum of Western Virginia
  • STEM Summit: Held at Virginia Tech for the past two years, averaging 130 participants. Showcases high quality STEM-related programming from industry, P-12, and from 2- and 4-year colleges. Participants include representatives from all of those constituencies. Impact has been the creation of partnerships across constituencies to increase and improve STEM programming in our region.
  • ICAT Day/Expo: ICAT Day is a public showcase for projects hosted by the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology at the Moss Arts Center. This year's ICAT Day theme was "If" and sought to explore the possibilities at the nexus of science, engineering, arts, and design. ICAT Day 2016 hosted 60 exhibits showing the work of 330 exhibitors. About 1300 people participated in the day's events.
  • Kindergarten-to-College (K2C): Over 1,000 fifth graders, their teachers, counselors, administrators and parents visit VT each year for college orientation including a presentation on college and careers, hands-on activities in the STEM labs around campus, lunch with the Corps of Cadets, and meeting with the student-athletes to better understand how they balance academics with athletics. Wrapped around the college visit, our Virginia Career VIEW office staff work with the students, teachers, and counselors, and parents to provide resources and workshops to reinforce opportunities, and provide information about pathways, college admissions and scholarships, and study strategies to excel in school. Participant surveys and long-term follow-up indicate that the experiences have a lasting effect in that the K-12 students talk openly about college and understand the need for academics to reach their goals; teachers, counselors, and administrators are better informed about majors and resources on college campuses; and parents have information that they would not have had otherwise, and they are using the information in constructive ways. The undergraduate students indicate that their experience impacted their programs, future career plans, and in their job searches.

Evaluation and Assessment

How does your center demonstrate its value, both in terms of assessing its own programming and responding to external evaluation?

Our center demonstrates value with current programming activities based on the nature of the activities and where each activity is in terms of its development. For example, K2C is in its 7th year. Evaluation focuses on numbers of participants, feedback from all participants, reflections by our undergraduates in terms of impact on their own learning, career plans, and job searches. In other activities, which have been more recently launched, feedback is in terms of numbers and satisfaction. Given the relative youth in terms of the life of our center and the life of our parent organization, all evaluations are currently internal. That said, over the next year, focused external formative evaluations of our projects will be conducted to ensure our development is on the right path.

Elements Contributing to Success

The current structural elements that have positioned us well are the fact that the foundation is based on a very successful VT-STEM outreach initiative, the fact that we already have a great deal of solid partnerships both internally to the university and with our external publics, and that we are structurally connected to all aspects of the tripartite mission of our university.

Supplemental Materials

Essay: Partnerships for alignment and broader impacts - Liesl Baum, Center for Research in SEAD Education, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Essay: Transforming a Land-Grant STEM Center - Susan Magliaro, The Center for Research in SEAD Education, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University