Transforming STEM Higher Education
Sankofa, a word in the Twi language of the Akan tribe of Ghana, loosely translates to “looking back while going forward.” This year, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) will celebrate the thirty years of success that Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) has had in providing effective professional and leadership development for STEM faculty. At the same time, we anticipate the ten-year anniversary of PKAL’s affiliation with AAC&U in 2020. The union of AAC&U and PKAL as a voice and force for undergraduate STEM reform represents a bold organizational move toward ensuring that STEM disciplines remain central to what constitutes a quality undergraduate education. It also reveals the magnitude of what’s possible when diverse perspectives, disciplines, and worldviews are fully considered and brought to bear on organizational change.
It is in the spirit of such change that this conference calls upon STEM disciplinary faculty and education researchers to join us in charting a daring path for STEM higher education reform that is paved with social consciousness, critical reflection, introspection, and disciplinary boundary crossing. Indeed, if we are to heed the nation’s call for a competitively trained and diverse STEM workforce, we must first be open in acknowledging that our unique disciplinary approaches to problem solving, by themselves, will not fully resolve our most perplexing challenges. Examination and investigation of undergraduate STEM education reform must not only extend across multiple institutional contexts, but also be critical, intelligent, and patient, serving all student demographics and withstanding the influences of existing systems and structures of exclusion. Above all, these efforts must be unceasing.
To that end, the “Transforming STEM Higher Education” conference will question and examine the entire range of contemporary challenges to—and opportunities for—STEM higher education reform, including exploring contemporary approaches to teaching, broadening participation, interrogating research studies, and verifying assessment tools for determining effectiveness. In keeping with our commitment to STEM faculty, we will also explore novel approaches to professional and leadership development. Conference attendees will be invited to unveil and abate disciplinary biases, confront fixations on “fix the student” reform models, and question theories about what can and cannot count as evidence of effectiveness.
Through this unique conference experience, together we will continue our legacy of advancing the kind of undergraduate STEM education reform that brings diverse perspectives and worldviews to bear on levers of change. In doing so, we will also guarantee our nation’s capacity to use those levers to drive innovation, discovery, social change, and life choices. Ultimately, we give deeper meaning and purpose to our way of knowing, understanding, and advancing STEM higher education practice, research, and policy.