Preparing Critical Faculty for the Future (PCFF)

Funded by the National Science Foundation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities-Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP), the goals of the PCFF project were to:

  • provide professional and leadership development for women of color faculty in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), or in NSF natural and behavioral science disciplines; and
  • improve undergraduate STEM education at HBCUs and beyond.

STEM women faculty of color at HBCUs were the critical focus of PCFF. Preparing these faculty members for the future is critical because enrollment at HBCUs typically consists of approximately 70% women and because HBCUs confer nearly 25% of all baccalaureate degrees earned by African Americans. HBCUs are among the nation’s leading institutions in producing graduates who go on to obtain PhD degrees. By uncovering useful strategies for preparing women faculty of color for academic leadership in STEM fields, PCFF expects to improve STEM education broadly as well as at HBCUs.

The program consisted of:

  • The initial Preparing Critical Faculty for the Future (PCFF);
  • And second phase Preparing Critical Faculty for the Future2 (PCFF2).

Program Goals

The goals of the PCFF project:

  • provide professional and leadership development for STEM women faculty of color in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), or NSF natural and behavioral science disciplinary program areas; and
  • improve undergraduate STEM education at their institution and beyond.

The project sought to achieve its goals through a yearlong series of activities designed to hone participants’ leadership skills and abilities, and assist them in introducing cutting-edge teaching techniques into their classroom and laboratory practice. Project strategies included offering participants financial support to engage in two national events: 1) a three-day conference focused on undergraduate STEM education that also incorporated a PCFF pre-and post conference symposium and workshop; and 2) a five-day summer institute. Both events included national experts in academic leadership and effective undergraduate STEM education and practice. Throughout the year, PCFF staff kept participants connected to each other and to national experts though a variety of social networks and online activities.

These professional and leadership development activities had three mutually reinforcing components: 1) to introduce academic professionals to topics designed to advance the twenty-first century curricular frameworks and teaching methodologies needed to increase the number of underserved students who may ultimately complete degrees in STEM fields; 2) to build faculty capacity to address the varied skills and abilities of the twenty-first century learner; and 3) to provide a leadership development path for STEM women faculty of color at HBCUs, where women play a smaller leadership role in the STEM disciplines than at majority institutions.

PCFF was implemented in two phases over an institution’s one year participation. Phase One engaged two women faculty of color from each institution in the formal symposium, workshop and conference above — Next Generation STEM Learning: Investigate, Innovate, Inspire—held in Kansas City, Missouri (Thursday – Saturday, November 8-10, 2012). Participants continued networking with each other and the national experts after this national event to prepare for Phase Two of the project.

In Phase Two, a five-person institutional team attended AAC&U’s Institute on Integrative Learning and the Departments in Portland, Oregon (Wednesday - Sunday, July 10 – 14, 2013). Institutions identified in the PCFF application process, a five-person team to attend this summer institute. In addition to the two STEM women faculty of color from Phase One, the team attending the summer institute included two additional faculty from various NSF STEM disciplinary program areas and at least one dean/provost level senior administrator.

Participants from both phases were eligible to join the online activities of the national network established through the PCFF project. This network expanded to at least 36 institutions and 72 individuals through the addition of a new cohort of participants and institutions in each subsequent year over the original three years of NSF funding.

A focus of all the project activities was on the needs and issues particularly attendant to STEM women faculty and administrators of color, and the growing number of historically underrepresented women and men students that are increasingly populating the college and university classrooms. Given the focus of the project, there was preferance that the additional participants in Phase Two be STEM women faculty of color and senior administrators. However, we also recognized that this might not be possible at some HBCUs. The strongest considerations were given to applications that address all aspects of the project’s goals and objectives.