Transforming (Inter)Institutional STEM Infrastructures: Lessons from the SEISMIC Project on Designing for Equity and Inclusion at Scale
Where equity and inclusion are concerned, STEM higher education remains in need of systemic reform and transformational change—within and across institutions. In this presentation, we discuss how promoting institutional transformation at scale may require revising STEM higher education's "knowledge infrastructures," the term used by scholars in the field of science, technology, and society (STS) studies to denote the varied social and technical elements (e.g., tools, policies) on which the production and sharing of knowledge depends. Specifically, sustainable institutional change may require the development of new interinstitutional collaborations, which facilitate collective work across and beyond institutions. Yet without careful design, the development of large-scale collaborations may introduce unexpected challenges or magnify existing inequities that clash with justice-oriented goals.
We highlight three areas where design decisions in any interinstitutional collaboration can sponsor or subvert equity- and inclusion-oriented goals: people, voice, and data. We illustrate each area with design lessons and questions drawn from the Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses (SEISMIC) project, an interinstitutional collaboration that brings together 10 research-intensive public universities. First, in terms of people, we consider design decisions related to collaboration and membership, paying particular attention to how increasing collaboration scale may clash with, rather than contribute to, collaboration diversity. Second, in terms of voice, we discuss design decisions related to member power, participation, and communication, highlighting the implications such choices can have for whose perspectives are centered (or silenced). Third, in terms of data, we examine how efforts to pool data across sites may help to make interinstitutional patterns newly visible—but may also risk rendering local contexts, meanings, and complexities invisible. Ultimately, through this SEISMIC case study, we identify some general guiding questions, focused on infrastructural design tensions, on which educators and change agents can draw when developing their own collaborations.