Initial Publication Date: March 10, 2017

Creating a Diverse STEM Pathway with Community Water Research Pilot

Project website:

Shared Vision

Project Summary

Lack of diversity in science and engineering education has contributed to significant inequality in a workforce that is responsible for addressing today's grand challenges. Broadening participation in these fields will promote the progress of science and advance national health, prosperity and welfare, as well as secure the national defense; however, students from underrepresented groups, including women, report different experiences than the majority of students, even within the same fields. These distinctions are not caused by the students' ability, but rather by insufficient aspiration, confidence, mentorship, instructional methods, and connection and relevance to their cultural identity. The long-term vision of this project is to amplify the impact of a successful broadening participation model at the University of Maine, the Stormwater Research Management Team (SMART). This program trains students and mentors in using science and engineering skills and technology to research water quality in their local watershed. Students engage in numerous science and technology fields: engineering design, data acquisition, analysis and visualization, chemistry, environmental science, biology, and information technology. Students also connect with a diversity of professionals in water and engineering in government, private firms and non-profits. SMART has augmented the traditional science and engineering classroom by engaging students in guided mentored apprenticeships that address community problems.

This pilot project will form a collaborative and define a strategic plan for scale-up to a national alliance to increase the long-term success rate of underrepresented minority students in science, engineering, and related fields. The collaborative of multiple and varied organizations will align to collectively contribute time and resources to a pre-college educational pathway. There are countless isolated programs that offer short-term interventions for underrepresented and minority students; however, there is lack of organizational coordination for aligning current program offerings, sharing best practices, research results or program outcomes along the education to workforce pathway. The collaborative activities will focus on the transition grades (e.g., 4-5, 8, and high school) and emphasize relationships among skills, confidence, culture and future careers. Collaborative partners will establish a centralized infrastructure in each location to coordinate recruiting of invested community leaders, educators, and parents, around a common agenda by designing, deploying and continually assessing a stormwater-themed project that addresses their location and demographic specific needs. This collaborative community will consist of higher education faculty and students, K-12 students, their caregivers, mentors, educators, stormwater districts, state and national environmental protection agencies, departments of education, and other for-profit and non-profit organizations. The collaborative will address the need for research on mechanisms for change, collaboration, and negotiation regarding the greater participation of under-represented groups in the science and technology workforce.

Project Materials

Principal Investigators

  • Mohamad Musavi, PI
  • Venkat Bhethanabotla, Co-PI
  • Cary James, Co-PI
  • Vemitra White, Co-PI
  • Lola Brown, CO-PI