Driving Change by Building Faculty Leaders and Fostering Community College Partnerships
UPSTEM (Utah Pathways to STEM) is an HHMI Inclusive Excellence project at the University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College to build capacity for supporting people from diverse backgrounds. The project involves four major change components at the course, department, college and cross-institutional levels: 1) year-long, interdisciplinary and cross-institutional faculty learning communities (FLCs) that build leadership skills around inclusive teaching practices, 2) cross-institutional "articulation" teams composed of faculty and advisors who closely examine curricular bottlenecks, alignment of learning outcomes, and transfer pathways, 3) access to inter-institutional student-level data, and 4) assessment of the climate for students, faculty, and staff in the College of Science at the University of Utah.
In the FLCs, faculty use institutional data to identify needs and develop projects that range in complexity from simple course-level adjustments to large-scale college-wide reforms. Some outcomes of this work include the implementation of a course-level climate assessment, the development of a math course for pre-engineering students that unlocks the introductory engineering curriculum, the conception of a "Story Corps" project that captures experiences of diverse faculty, students and staff, and the creation of an action plan to improve equity, diversity and inclusion in the College of Science. The work of the articulation teams has resulted in changes to course sequencing, a shift in statewide rules for general education and associates degrees, and two new transfer degrees that seamlessly guide students to multiple STEM majors at the University of Utah.
The key to facilitating change at both institutions has been providing faculty with training and information on best practices in inclusive teaching and access to institutional data. Also, providing a community of peers who are working toward the same goal stimulates creative problem solving and helps empower faculty to take on tough structural and interpersonal challenges.