2021 Conference on Transforming STEM Higher Education

Call for Proposals

AAC&U and its Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) invite proposals for sessions that examine the entire range of contemporary challenges to—and opportunities for—STEM higher education reform. All sessions will be delivered virtually, and session presenters will be supported by a team of trained technical producers, moderators, and staff to co-create the most engaging attendee experience possible.

The deadline for proposal submissions was Monday, July 12, 2021. We are no longer accepting proposal submissions.

Session Types

The following session types will be offered at this year's STEM Conference.. The description of each includes information about what is to be submitted as part of the proposal.

  • Presentations and sessions within Session Type I will feature classroom and/or project level interventions aimed at enhancing undergraduate STEM learning. Proposals should represent strategies that focus on achieving core STEM learning outcomes or providing professional development for STEM faculty to implement such strategies effectively. Proposals offering new and innovative insights into undergraduate STEM teaching strategies that lead to the retention of students from historically underrepresented groups in STEM are particularly encouraged.

    Proposed sessions must be deeply grounded in the literature and driven by either quantitative or qualitative research approaches. Additionally, Session Type I sessions must demonstrate capacity for transferability beyond your own institutional context. Proposals that merely present a “show and tell” of outcomes, are devoid of a theoretical basis, or do not address how the successful strategies can be transferred to other contexts will not be accepted.

  • Presentations and sessions within Session Type II will focus on the implementation of institution-wide efforts to reform STEM higher education, particularly those that are readily transferable to a wide range of institution types. These sessions should emphasize broad-based changes, particularly in institutional policies and/or practices, which benefit either STEM students or faculty. Emphasis on institution-wide efforts that differentially impact students and faculty from historically underrepresented groups in STEM are particularly encouraged.

    Proposed sessions must be deeply grounded in the literature and driven by either quantitative or qualitative research approaches. Additionally, Session Type II sessions must demonstrate capacity for transferability to, and adaptability within, a wide range of institutional contexts. Proposals that merely present a “show and tell” of outcomes, are devoid of a theoretical basis, or do not address how the successful institutional change strategies can be transferred to other institution types will not be accepted.

  • Presentations and sessions within Session Type III will focus on models for STEM higher education reform that directly impact more than a single institution. These sessions will explore how national alliances and communities of practice – whether formal or informal – can be used to advance and accelerate STEM reform. Proposals that enhance our understanding of STEM culture, as well as the systemic institutional structures and/or barriers that limit the participation of STEM students and/or faculty from underrepresented groups are particularly encouraged.

    Proposed sessions must be deeply grounded in the literature and driven by either quantitative or qualitative research approaches. Additionally, Session Type III sessions must demonstrate capacity for impact beyond that which has already been achieved. Proposals that merely present a “show and tell” of outcomes, are devoid of a theoretical basis, or do not address how the successful STEM reform strategies are relevant across all institution types will not be accepted.

  • Presentations and sessions within Session Type IV will focus on generation of new knowledge relevant to the empirical exploration and examination of undergraduate STEM student learning, broadening participation, faculty development, leadership, and/or institutional change. Proposals that demonstrate potential to enhance our understanding of reform efforts that differentially impact students and faculty from historically underrepresented groups in STEM are particularly encouraged.

    Proposed sessions for Session Type IV must be theory-driven and deeply grounded in quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methodological approaches. Proposals that merely present a “show and tell” of outcomes, are devoid of theoretical basis, promote “one size fits all” approaches, and/or fail to consider the range of various institutional types that surround and influence STEM education programs will not be accepted.

Session Formats

  • Poster presentations are visual displays of findings from research and/or implementation of undergraduate STEM reform interventions. Selection of proposals for poster presentations are based on the same criteria as that of all other STEM conference proposals.

  • These sessions will feature “untested” strategies, emerging research, and new theories or concepts that show promise for advancing our national STEM higher education reform agenda. The presentation should include time for questions and audience feedback.

    Selection of proposals for these sessions is not based on the same level of review as other sessions. However, the proposal should provide a very detailed description of the idea or innovation to be presented, as well as the context in which it is expected to be successful.

  • Facilitated discussions provide an opportunity for conference attendees to examine STEM higher education reform topics of similar interest. Facilitators are expected to assist conference attendees in examining new ways of thinking about STEM higher education reform and the specific strategies that are needed for moving forward, particularly in light of the diversity of individual and institutional contexts that will be represented at the conference.

    Proposals for facilitated discussions should explain the overall context surrounding the anticipated discussion, as related to the conference theme; and clearly identify the intended audience. Proposals for facilitated discussions should also reflect the capacity to generate new ideas and questions from conference attendees as a means of making the session stimulating and meaningful for all involved.

  • Workshops are designed to provide a highly interactive environment for conference attendees to deeply examine, explore, and/or experience the relevant theories and implementation strategies that can contribute to advancing STEM higher education reform. Workshops are expected to engage conference attendees in reflection and discussion about work related to undergraduate STEM reform models and/or practices.

    Proposals for workshops must provide details about the scholarship that will inform the workshop topic and its approach to conference attendee engagement. Proposed sessions that are designed to model high-impact practices, such as small-group collaboration and experiential learning, will be given priority for presentation.

  • Pre-conference workshops are a hallmark of the AAC&U STEM conference. These sessions provide opportunities for conference attendees to vigorously and deeply engage in a broad spectrum of topics that are related to the reform of STEM higher education. Please note, pre-conference workshops will be held up to 7 days prior to the start of the STEM conference.

    All pre-conference workshops are expected to be highly interactive, utilizing creative strategies that are appropriate for a virtual space, and grounded in the basic principles of adult learning. For this reason, proposals for pre-conference workshops should provide highly detailed information on the workshop structure, plan for engagement of the target audience, an appropriate balance between content delivery and breaks, and anticipated learning outcomes for attendees.

Developing and Submitting a Proposal

The online proposal form includes the following fields:

  • Name, Title, Institution, Discipline, and Email Address of each presenter. If there is more than one presenter for your proposal, please indicate who should be listed as the corresonding presenter. The corresponding presenter will receive all proposal submission correspondence.
  • Session title
  • Session Type
  • Session Format
  • Keywords to tag sessions by areas of interest. Select all that apply from the following options: Active Learning - Anti-Racism - Assessment - Broadening Participation - Community College - Communities of Practice - Course-Based Undergraduate Research - Faculty Mentoring - Institutional Change/Transformation - Interdisciplinarity - Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) - Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCU) - Inclusive Excellence - Leadership - Learning Assistance - Learning Communities - Metacognition - Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) - Peer Mentoring - Predominantly Undergraduate Institution (PUI) - Professional Development - Summer Bridge Programs - Supplemental Instruction - Tribal Colleges or Universities (TCU) - Undergraduate Research - Virtual Learning
  • Keywords to tag sessions by Undergraduate STEM Reform Community association. ASCN - BioQuest - HHMI IE - PKAL - NSF S STEM - NSF HBCU UP - NSF INCLUDES - TIDES
  • Program Abstract. Provide a brief description to be used in the official conference program if your proposal is accepted. The abstract should summarize the nature of the work conducted and highlight what is distinctive and transferrable about the work being presented. (150 words maximum)
  • Background and Significance. Provide a brief overview of your project. Include a description of the problem you are addressing, a rationale for your approach, theory(ies) informing your work, methods. (500 words maximum)
  • Results/Evidence of Effectiveness (not required for Innovation/Ideation proposals). Describe, in detail, the outcomes of your work and the metrics used to determine effectiveness and overall impact. (350 words maximum)
  • Plan for Engaging Conference Participants/Attendees(required only for Facilitated Discussion, Workshop, and Pre-Conference Workshop proposals). Provide a detailed plan for how attendees will be engaged in hands-on session activities in a virtual environment. Details about attendee learning outcomes should also be included. (200 words maximum)

Proposal Review Criteria

AAC&U and PKAL strive to offer a balanced, informative, and thought-provoking conference within the framework of STEM higher education reform. The conference proposal selection committee will include experienced, diverse STEM faculty and administrators from a broad range of institution types. In evaluating each conference proposal, reviewers will consider both the technical aspects of the proposal and the ways in which the presentation/session will contribute to transforming STEM higher education.

Using a Likert scale (1=lowest; 5=highest), reviewers are asked to consider and rate the following elements of each conference proposal:

  1. Is the proposed session/presentation grounded and informed by research and theory?
  2. Does the proposal provide a thorough overview of the problem or challenge to be explored and/or addressed?
  3. To what extent does the proposed session/presentation offer creative, novel, and/or transformative mechanisms to promote and enhance STEM learning at the undergraduate level?
  4. Is there convincing qualitative and/or quantitative evidence to support the effectiveness of the approach described in the proposal?
  5. To what extent does the proposed session/presentation contribute to the achievement of inclusive excellence in STEM higher education?
  6. What is the relative ease with which the proposed session/conference materials and/or project outcomes can be adapted to a wide range of institutions of higher education or communities of practice?
  7. What is the potential for the proposed session/presentation to advance our knowledge and understanding of STEM education at the undergraduate level?
  8. Where applicable (Facilitated Discussion, Workshop, Pre-Conference Workshop), how well are the session activities suited for a virtual platform?
  9. What is the overall merit of the session/presentation?

Additionally, reviewers are offered the option to provide summary statements on:

  • the major strengths of the proposed session/presentation
  • the major weaknesses of the proposed session/presentation
  • the value added to the STEM conference

For your review, an example proposal is provided below:

  • Session Title: A Work in Context: Tracking the Success of Implementing CUREs at an HSI

    Session Type: Workshop

    Background and Significance: Implementation of high impact practices (HIPs) is vital to expanding the pipeline of underrepresented students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, yet continues to be a challenge for many institutions. Research experiences have been shown to be particularly effective for underprepared and underrepresented groups (Kuh, 2009). However, traditional research experiences may be out of reach for some underrepresented students as they may not satisfy entrance requirements to research programs, may lack acculturation to apply for extracurricular research (Bangera and Brownell, 2014), or may have additional family and financial obligations (Malcolm et al., 2010) that preclude them from maximizing the benefits of apprenticeship experiences. Malcolm and others (2010) suggested increasing accessibility to research opportunities at HSIs and community colleges by integrating research experiences directly into the core curriculum (e.g. CUREs) as a means to increase participation, retention, and success in STEM. In 2014, CUREnet, an NSF-funded Research Coordination Network for Undergraduate Biology Education, defined the key elements of CUREs as 1) use of scientific practices, 2) focus on discovery, 3) focus on broadly relevant or important work, 4) collaboration, and 5) iteration (Auchincloss et al., 2014). In addition to broadening participation, CUREs have been shown to stimulate greater learning and affect gains when compared to non-CURE courses (Lopatto et al., 2008; Wei and Wooden, 2011; Olimpo et al., 2016). Integrating CUREs into existing courses or creating new courses presents unique challenges that call for research into contextualizing CUREs to make implementation accessible to a broad range of academic institutions.

    Evidence of Effectiveness: University X, a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), reaches populations of students who have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM fields. To broaden participation in undergraduate research, University X implemented a Design Your Own Experiment (DYOE) pedagogy, a variant of Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences or CUREs, in laboratory learning modules of a required sophomore level cell biology course. This course was analyzed for learning, critical thinking, and affective gains over a three-year period. The results suggest that students benefited in all three domains from the DYOE experience. Further analysis of student surveys and faculty interviews highlighted key features of the lab and lecture sections that influence student outcomes. Specifically, the role of lecture style and content on student learning in the lab will be discussed. Recommendations for implementation based on these findings will also be addressed.

    Plan for Engaging Conference Participants/Attendees: This workshop will feature different scenarios for CURE implementation in small groups, especially focusing on scenarios that apply to their institutions. Key variables that may affect implementation include: course topic, instructor pool (e.g. part-time/adjunct, full time, novice, experienced), classroom size, availability of facilities, teaching assistants, and student demographics among others. As a result, participants will learn about assessment outcomes in learning, critical thinking, and affect of students in a DYOE-CURE model, as well as gain a nuanced and contextualized understanding of barriers and strategies for: CURE development, implementation, student buy-in, and student success. Participants will also customize a strategy for their institutional setting, and develop learning outcomes for a CURE of their own choosing and generate ideas for course delivery and assessment through guided discussion. Facilitators of this session will guide participants in creating a collaborative list of practices and strategies for each group to share at the end. This will help participants define learning goals for lab-embedded research and discuss ways to integrate lecture material. Different styles of course instruction, including traditional lecture, active learning, and flipped, will be discussed in context of a CURE. Ideas for assessment of lecture-lab integration will be gathered and shared.

Additional Information

The deadline to submit proposals is Monday, July 12, 2021.

Upon submission of a proposal, the corresponding presenter will receive an automatic message indicating that AAC&U has received the proposal. Please remember to check the spam folder. If the message is not received, please email [email protected].


The corresponding presenter will receive notice via email of the decision regarding the proposal on or about August 26, 2021. Please remember to check the spam folder. If the message is not received, please email [email protected].

Registration Fees

All session presenters are responsible for paying conference registration fees.

Session Times

Presentation times will occur between the evening of Thursday, November 4, 2021, and the morning of Saturday, November 6, 2021. Pre-conference workshops may be scheduled up to a week before the conference begins.

AAC&U Conference Sponsors

AAC&U's Conference Sponsorship program provides organizations, nonprofits, companies, publishers, and others the opportunity to showcase their products and services while exchanging information with members of a higher education audience. For more information about sponsorship opportunities, please go to AAC&U Sponsorships or contact AAC&U's Office of Outreach and Member Engagement at 202-387-3760 or email us at [email protected].

Sponsors interested in session presentations should consult the submission and review guidelines above and submit a proposal.
Proposals for conference sessions or presentations that promote products or services available for purchase will not be considered through the review process outlined above.


If you have questions or need additional information, please email [email protected]