The National Center for Institutional Diversity is taking a multi-pronged approach, through research and scholarship at the local and national levels, to increase underrepresented minority students in science, technology, engineering and math.
The NCID, housed at the University of Michigan in LSA, is leading this effort because STEM fields remain largely homogenous, despite significant scholarship about the challenges and barriers of underrepresented minorities, and national and institutional programs designed to support those students.
The center seeks to tackle the issue by generating scholarship, supporting other scholars in the production and dissemination of scholarship, and promoting the use of evidence-based practices.
“The NCID is building on longstanding research and practices, but we know that there is still work to be done,” says Tabbye Chavous, NCID director.
“Through this multi-pronged approach, we hope to have an impact, not just through our scholarship, but also by supporting and preparing leaders to create lasting change at institutions across the country.”
At U-M, the NCID sponsors the Growing STEM Knowledge Community, which consists of faculty and staff seeking to collaborate across academic units to improve the pipeline and experience of underrepresented groups in STEM.
Events are planned throughout the year to foster information sharing and cross-collaboration across units on campus, including Michigan Medicine, the College of Engineering, LSA, and the Center for Educational Outreach. Topics have included K-12 outreach programs, STEM learning communities, and STEM program evaluation.
In addition to developing a collective agenda to promote collaborations on campus, Growing STEM participants have advised the NCID on national convenings.
Growing STEM is led by Angela Dillard, associate dean for undergraduate education in LSA, and Derrick Scott, director of inclusion and multicultural engineering programs in the College of Engineering.
Nationwide, the center is partnering with the American Council on Education to produce a blog series, Campus Climate and STEM Success, which mobilizes scholars from multiple institutions and disciplines to inform approaches that can increase the enrollment, retention, and success of marginalized students in STEM fields.
Blog posts include insights into the experiences of underrepresented minority students in STEM departments at elite institutions and at historically black colleges and universities, and the experiences of students with disabilities in STEM.
Research under Chavous’ leadership includes three projects funded through the National Science Foundation that focus on underrepresented racial or ethnic minority undergraduate and graduate students in STEM.
Project findings reveal the critical roles that a university’s environment — including campus and department climates and mentoring — has on students’ achievement and persistence. Furthermore, students’ own cultural identities are often sources of academic motivation and psychological support that enable their college persistence and success.
This work challenges popular explanations for the underrepresentation of African Americans, Latinx, and Native American students in STEM that primarily focus on perceptions of what students “lack,” such as low academic preparation or the lack of a cultural fit.
The work also speaks to the need for higher education institutions to focus less on changing students to fit into their academic cultures, and focus more on improving culture and practices that value and serve all students.
“In NCID’s research efforts, we aim to make contributions to the academy, and as importantly, we work to make our findings, and that of others, accessible and usable for leaders and practitioners,” says Chavous, who also is a professor of education and of psychology.
NCID-led research has informed Chavous’ work on two National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics committees on addressing barriers and enhancing success in STEM, including research and policy recommendations.
In May, the NCID convened 14 institutional teams from across the country and at U-M to prepare and mobilize leaders in using evidence-based approaches to transform STEM experiences for underrepresented minority students.
The conference was designed and sponsored in collaboration with the Center for Policy Research and Strategy at the American Council on Education, and the Race and Equity Center at the University of Southern California.