Bringing an asset-based community development framework to university change work

Thursday 1:15pm - 2:45pm Waterfront
Thematic Symposium

Stephen Biscotte, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ
Najla Miranda Mouchrek, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ


In higher education, the impetus for change is often the identification of a specific need, problem-area, or under-performance. For example, the institution recognizes that their female retention rates in STEM are too low, minority students appear underprepared for the rigors of calculus, and/or instructors lack pedagogical content knowledge to effectively teach large introductory courses. Interventions are designed and implemented to target these perceived deficits. However, what if instead of focusing solely on fixing the 'deficits' (which are often human people), we also focus on growing, celebrating, and leveraging the strengths of the community involved? What if we think of a higher education institution as a community ripe for development rather than an institution in need of reform?

In this interactive session, the facilitators challenge attendees to consider taking a strengths-based mindset to higher education change, the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) framework, and offer the tools to pursue such an endeavor on their own campuses.


This symposium is divided into three parts:

1) a 20-minute introduction of the ABCD framework,

2) a 40-minute partner discussion activity, and

3) a 30-minute individual reflection to group sharing exercise.

Attendees will first be introduced to the concept of Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) as a potential framework for institutional change in undergraduate education. Presenters will offer an overview of the model and its components, examples from the community development literature, and highlights of its implementation in our own university-level undergraduate general education curriculum reform efforts.

Next, presenters will set up a space for discussion and interaction in contrasting deficit-focused problem-solving mindset with the more strengths-based community building framework mindset as a means of achieving broader institutional change goals.

Finally, attendees will be guided through a tool to planning change initiatives applying the framework to meet their own institutional goals for STEM reform. Participants can leave with both a new mindset toward institutional change and a framework for action upon returning to campus.


Participant Workspace