Initial Publication Date: July 3, 2013

Invitation to Participate in a National Discussion about STEM Education Centers

July 3, 2013

Dear STEM Education Center/Program Director:

With the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) has launched a national discussion on university-based science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education centers. Our goals are to foster communication and interaction among STEM education centers and to enhance the capacity of these centers to support effective undergraduate education.

Specifically, our project seeks to

  • Better understand and document the breadth of programs that support evidence-based practices in undergraduate STEM education;
  • Identify commonalities and variations among such centers; and
  • Begin to build a national network among such centers.

As co-chairs of the planning committee for this project, we invite you to participate in this discussion, as described below. We are especially interested in participation by APLU institutions, and by directors of university- or college-based centers or programs that make a strong effort to advance use of evidence-based STEM education practices and have institutional impact beyond a single department or program. We focus on these centers initially as they can serve as catalysts for broader national educational transformation in STEM, including research on teaching and learning STEM disciplines at all levels.

By participating in this project as described above, the benefits to you and your center will include:

  • Showcasing your work at the national level on a dedicated web-portal (hosted at Carleton College's Science Education Resources Center, or SERC);
  • Joining a new network of related programs to share resources, best-practices, and approaches to address challenges and successes;
  • Opportunities to shape the national discussion about STEM education transformation at the undergraduate level; and
  • Becoming part of a new national community.

To become involved, first let us know whether or not you would like to participate in this national discussion: By indicating your interest upon signing in, you'll join our list and be included in future communications.

Next, take a survey. This summer we are conducting a survey of STEM Education Centers. The information you provide about your center will be used to showcase your center in a STEM Education Centers website describing the range of centers currently in operation. View examples of public profiles.

We will also use this information to create a draft taxonomy of centers in this initial phase of the project that describes the variety of goals and approaches that are in use. Both the website and the taxonomy are part of our strategies for increasing communication among centers and for supporting the development of new campus based approaches to strengthening STEM teaching. Responding to the survey should take approximately 1 hour, and we predict that most of the requested information can be derived from existing materials. Those who have completed the survey found this exercise to be productive in articulating the essence of their center.

Third, after taking the survey, let us know if you would be interested in attending a 1.5-day workshop on September 15-16 in St. Louis. We have some travel funds, so we request that you confirm your interest and ability to participate. Selection of up to 40 centers in this exploratory phase will be based on the following criteria:

  • Completion of the survey;
  • A center/program's emphasis on undergraduate STEM;
  • Diversity of institutions (geographic, size, type of program, target audience);
  • Programming that would add substantively to the workshop discussions.

The workshop's program will build on the survey results gathered this summer to enable:

  • Sharing of available evidence and best practices about the impacts of centers on STEM undergraduate teaching and learning;
  • New understanding of the national landscape of STEM Education Centers; and
  • A plan for enhanced communication among STEM Education Centers nation wide, perhaps including a national conference.

We hope that you will join with us in this effort to enhance STEM education nationwide. By Fall 2013, we intend to have an initial community of STEM Education Centers, a centralized mechanism for showcasing centers and their outcomes, a workshop report, and initial plans for an ongoing network of STEM education centers.

To meet these objectives, we must move forward expeditiously, thus we ask th<a></a>at you carve time out of your busy scheduled to act in the following ways:

To indicate your interest: As soon as possible, but no later than July 19, let us know whether or not you are interested in participating.

Complete the survey: No later than Wednesday, July 31: Complete the STEM Education Center survey

Selection to participate the September workshop: By Friday, August 9, we will let you know if you and your center have been selected to participate in the September 15-16 workshop in St. Louis.

Thank you for your interest; we look forward to hearing from you.


Noah Finkelstein, University of Colorado Boulder, Co-Chair
Cathryn A. Manduca, Carleton College, Co-Chair
Howard Gobstein, Executive Vice President, APLU
Donna Gerardi Riordan, Project Director