NSF EHR Advisory Committee Discusses Organizational Transformation, Racial Equity in Spring Meeting
NSF EHR Advisory Committee Discusses Organizational Transformation, Racial Equity in Spring Meeting

May 2022

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Education and Human Resources (EHR) Advisory Committee held its spring meeting on May 18–19. The meeting agenda focused on sustainability around two themes: Promoting Organizational Level Transformation in STEM Education and Workforce Development and Advancing Racial Equity in STEM Education and Workforce Development.

The first day of the meeting highlighted the implementation of best practices, understanding and addressing structural barriers, and cultivating partnerships for organizational-level transformation. Geoffrey Cohen, a professor at Stanford University, shared with advisory committee members findings from research that he and his collaborators have done to understand belonging uncertainty and best practices to foster belonging among students in STEM fields.

Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University (ASU), and Sandra Laursen, senior research associate and director of Ethnography & Evaluation Research at the University of Colorado Boulder, discussed work within their institutions to address structural barriers. Brayboy discussed ASU’s efforts to address barriers regarding advancing indigenous populations in STEM, including hiring practices around topic clusters and developing an intentional transdisciplinary and transracial approach. Laursen discussed the importance of systems thinking and described how different approaches from ADVANCE grantees have sought to develop more inclusive institutional practices and provide supports for individuals.

Erwin Gianchandani, the assistant director for the new NSF Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) directorate, provided an update on TIP activities and areas of potential collaboration with EHR. These activities include partnerships on experiential and entrepreneurial learning, including a focus on community colleges and accelerating research training ambassadors; NSF research traineeships; and NSF Equity in Innovation hubs.

During the second day of the meeting, EHR advisory committee members provided data and research findings related to advancing racial equity in STEM education:

  • Kaye Husbands Fealing, dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at the Georgia Institute of Technology, discussed research findings around representation ratios in scientific disciplines, federal pay gaps by gender, and work around a research agenda for the Science of Broadening Participation.
  • Okhee Lee, professor at New York University, provided details around multilingual students in STEM, noting the need to shift from deficit-oriented language such as “Limited English Proficient” in the No Child Left Behind Act to asset-oriented framing as well as incorporating language through doing STEM activities.
  • Becky Wai-Ling Packard, professor at Mount Holyoke College, provided research and data around mentoring in STEM.

EHR advisory committee members also received an update on the EHR Racial Equity in STEM Education funding solicitation and the Partnerships in Research and Education in Materials program in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate as an example of expanding partnerships and inclusion in graduate education.

The meeting closed with an EHR advisory committee discussion with NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. He discussed updates on the TIP Directorate, work supported by NSF that led to the discovery and photos of the black hole in the Milky Way, and the work of the Interagency Working Group on Inclusion in STEM in advising federal agencies on best practices for diversity and inclusion in STEM education and research.

Panchanathan also thanked Lee and AERA for inviting him to speak at a fireside chat alongside Alondra Nelson, acting director of the White House Office and Science Technology Policy, during the 2022 AERA Annual Meeting.

“It was fantastic,” Panchanathan said. “This is the kind of engagement that allows us to talk to NSF, but also listen to the community and hear what they’re looking for. These are the kinds of things we want to do more of.”

Panachanathan reiterated the call that he made during the fireside chat to reach out as NSF relies on experts on the ground to inform the agency’s work.

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