Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC)
The Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC), sponsored by NSF, is a national network of centers that focuses on undergraduate STEM education transformation within colleges and universities. This nascent network addresses calls from the White House (Olson & Riordan, 2012) and National Academies (Singer et al., 2012) for such multi-institutional / nation-wide approaches. To date, we have engaged 124 university and/ or college-based centers at 108 institutions, identified 215 centers at 167 institutions, and have extensive profiles of 93 centers on a national website.
We are building a community of centers that helps address key needs of centers, university administrators, funders, policymakers, and national constituents. NSEC supports centersﾒ needs for community and networking; increased institutionalization; sustainable funding; and resources, strategies, tools, and access to national discussions on supporting transformation of undergraduate STEM education. To increase institutionalization and legitimacy of these centers, we are building a network that university administrators highly value because of the richness of cross-institutional learning; research on center impacts that support investments in these organizations; access to funders; and national recognition via their centerﾒs accomplishments. To support funders, policy-makers, and external constituents, we are leveraging the vast expertise of NSEC to help solve national challenges in education and are implementing these solutions across the network of centers. We seek to establish NSEC as the one-stop-shop for supporting transformation of undergraduate STEM education.
Building and sustaining NSEC is modeled after successful scientific and practitioner networks (Goldstein & Butler, 2010; Narum & Manduca, 2012; Henderson, Beach, & Finkelstein, 2011).
NSEC has two co-directors (Kacy Redd and Noah Finkelstein), a Steering Committee, and an Advisory Board of national experts in STEM education and change in higher education.
To create a community of center directors and staff, NSEC will host a national conference and two workshops per year with networking, learning, and professional development opportunities; host a national platform of centers at SERC; provide seed grants for cross-institutional work; and provide regular communications on STEM education.
Gabriela Weaver is leading research on the role of STEM education centers and their intersection with centers for teaching and learning (CTL). Bruce Goldstein is studying network formation. Nancy Shapiro is the lead evaluator.
We will have a robust and sustained STEM education center network with a governance structure, financial plan, and management; toolkit for centers (i.e. organization charts, reporting structures, budgets, communication materials, model programs); taxonomy of center types and approaches, noting center diversity; an online presence for community building to share successes and challenges; a mechanism for university administrators to identify various models of centers; resources for policymakers and funders to reach into and coordinate with the STEM education community; and reports on what is known about centers and about creating effective STEM education networks.
Creating a national network of roughly 200 university-based education centers that enhances their capacity and allows for novel forms of educational transformation by working across institutions will directly impact hundreds of faculty and positively influence the educational experiences of hundreds of thousands of undergraduates.
We are a new network and have not yet encountered significant challenges.
Riordan, D.G. (2014). STEM education centers: a national discussion. APLU/SMTI Paper 8. Washington,
DC: Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. Available at https://www.aplu.org/projects-and-initiatives/stem-education/SMTI_Library/stem-education-centers-report