Community-Based Interdisciplinary STEM Certificate

Nawal Benmouna, Montgomery College, Vedham Karpakakunjaram, Montgomery College, Milton Nash, Montgomery College, K. Rebecca Thomas, Montgomery College


Many contemporary problems that impact our daily lives – from the spread of infectious diseases to climate change – demand expertise from one or more STEM domains. Effective solutions require an understanding that moves beyond STEM, integrating the culture, values, and interests of impacted communities. This Community-Based Interdisciplinary STEM Certificate prepares students to solve complex, interdisciplinary problems in the real-world context of their own communities.

The five-course certificate uses an experiential, project-based framework to engage students in authentic STEM research motivated by questions, concerns, and problems within their local communities. It develops skills associated with scientific inquiry, quantitative literacy, STEM communication, project planning, collaboration, and community engagement. As students explore the unique challenges, history, and values of their local communities, they gain experience balancing the scientific, socio-cultural, and ethical aspects of complex problem solving.

More Details about the Certificate »

Goals of the Program

I. Reimagining the STEM Introductory Curriculum

This Community-Based Interdisciplinary STEM Certificate reimagines the STEM introductory curriculum as follows:

  • Breaks down traditional academic barriers among STEM disciplines and other academic fields so that students, as future STEM professionals or as fellow citizens, have the experience to think about our world's complex problems in multifaceted, inclusive, and humane ways.
  • Centers transformational teaching and learning practices in early undergraduate STEM experiences, including contextualized, place-based learning, and authentic scientific research to increase interest and improve retention in STEM.
  • Strengthens community partnerships to support students' real-world projects that connect with their lives and contribute back to the values, concerns, and goals of the local community.
  • Builds a non-credit pathway (through co-listed credit/non-credit courses) for community members to explore STEM interests and consider further STEM training.

II. Supporting STEM Interested Students

The Community-Based Interdisciplinary STEM Certificate supports students who are starting college with a general interest in STEM and/or a desire to explore STEM fields broadly using an integrative, problem-based approach. Students in the following categories may consider this certificate program:

  • For students undecided on a specific major, the certificate facilitates STEM exploration and provides a bridge into an associate's degree program in a specific STEM field.
  • Students who are already in a STEM degree program can complete the certificate concurrently as a project-based supplement to their STEM degree.
  • Community members and non-STEM professionals may complete the certificate to enhance their STEM knowledge and training.

Program Learning Outcomes

Students who complete the Community-Based Interdisciplinary STEM Certificate will be able to:

  1. apply the fundamentals of scientific inquiry and the necessary interdisciplinary knowledge to complete community-based STEM projects. (Foundational Knowledge)
  2. employ evidence-based and data-centered approaches to critically analyze options when solving complex problems. (Foundational & Meta Knowledge)
  3. analyze the local context for a community-based STEM project by explaining its connection with two or more society-based themes, e.g., local history or geography, competing social values, conflict resolution, ethical perspectives. (Foundational, Humanistic, & Meta Knowledge)
  4. access and utilize digital platforms and technology tools commonly used for data collection, analysis and reporting. (Foundational & Meta Knowledge)
  5. communicate STEM effectively to a diverse society and in different formats for different audiences. (Humanistic & Meta Knowledge)
  6. collaborate in ​a way that encourages and values the diversity of ideas generated by others during problem-solving. (Humanistic & Meta Knowledge)
  7. engage and lead within their local communities to promote scientific curiosity, evidence-based problem-solving, and positive change. (Humanistic Knowledge)

Program Assessment

Assessment of Program Learning Outcomes

Program learning outcomes will be assessed via rubrics designed for the specific assignments and activities that students complete as they advance through the certificate program.

  • Formative assessment will include assignments and activities embedded within the certificate's courses. These assignments will scaffold students' foundational, humanistic, and meta skill development as they move through the course sequence. Additionally, many of the assignments will build and/or refine components of the students' two capstone products for the certificate.
  • Summative assessment will occur via evaluation of the two capstone products associated with the certificate:
    • the scientific (or technical) poster and presentation
    • the synthesis portfolio

These two capstone products are described more on the program details page.

Other Program Level Assessments

In addition to achievement of program learning outcomes, the following measures can assess the program's success:

  • semester to semester retention within the certificate program
  • successful completion of the certificate program
  • enrollment in another STEM course or STEM degree program while completing or within one year of completing the certificate
  • number of community partnerships (e.g., with government agencies, non-profits, or businesses) that support students' successful completion of community-based STEM projects
  • dissemination of students' community-based STEM project work (e.g., data, materials, results) beyond the certificate program's requirements
  • students' perceptions of the program's impacts on their STEM interest, STEM identity, and/or ethical awareness (e.g. through student pre and post surveys).
  • students' participation in community-based events or organizations as part of or in addition to the certificate program

Program Courses & Capstone Products

Explore further details of the Community-Based Interdisciplinary STEM Certificate on our program including:

  • a program catalog description,
  • the design philosophy,
  • the course sequence including course descriptions, &
  • the capstone products.