Institutional Change Initiatives

I have led and participated in several institutional change initiatives at the U, including most recently the Utah Pathways to STEM (UPSTEM) project funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Educational Futures Taskforce, and a new HHMI initiative called Driving Change.  The U was recently selected as one of 38 finalist institutions in the Driving Change competition, and I am the Project Director for our efforts, which are just getting underway.  Below, I focus on the UPSTEM project which is halfway through its 5-year funding cycle.

The UPSTEM Initiative is meant to increase the capacity of the College of Science at the University of Utah (the U) to support the success of students from populations historically excluded from STEM.  It focuses specifically on students originating at the U’s main transfer partner, Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), who aspire to degrees in math or science and a career in STEM.  Transfer students make up about a third of the U’s new student population, including those in STEM degree pathways.  Despite this, the College of Science had not previously partnered with SLCC to articulate clear and efficient degree pathways, nor had it collaborated on student support structures such as advising, research experiences for undergraduates, on-campus employment and enrichment opportunities, and sharing of student data to track outcomes.

UPSTEM has developed six institutional strategies to address the difficulties faced by transfer students, minoritized students, and other students historically excluded from the STEM enterprise:

  • Creating clear, fully articulated pathways from SLCC to STEM degrees at the U.  UPSTEM initiated a cross-institutional collaboration to design fully articulated degree pathways that map directly to each department’s majors in the U’s College of Science.
  • Increasing the capacity to collect and share data between SLCC and the U.  UPSTEM created a new cross-institutional data sharing agreement for STEM students that will enable both institutions to work together to provide comprehensive academic and social support, and to track outcomes.
  • Prioritizing recruitment and support of minoritized and transfer students.  UPSTEM will create a model curriculum that helps transition transfer students to the U.  We will also coordinate resources for STEM transfer students and catalyze initiatives for new scholarships, research, employment and enrichment opportunities.
  • Assessing the campus climate for inclusion of transfer and minoritized students.  UPSTEM has conducted a baseline climate assessment of students, faculty and staff in the College of Science and will conduct a longitudinal study of how this climate evolves in response to this and other institutional change initiatives.
  • Providing seamless and comprehensive transfer advising for math and science aspirants.  UPSTEM has created a new “Bridge Advisor” position who has integrated into the STEM advising communities at both institutions and who coordinates activities including professional development and degree articulation.
  • Facilitating professional development for faculty.  UPSTEM has built a Faculty Learning Community that is committed to discussing and solving issues related to STEM teaching and learning, transfer student support, and best practices in inclusive pedagogy.

Funding:  UPSTEM is funded by a $1,050,000 Inclusive Excellence grant from HHMI with Holly Godsey at Project Director.

People and Roles:

  • Prof. Holly Godsey, Associate Professor (Lecturer) in Geology & Geophysics; Director of Student Success & Teacher Development in the CSME:  Holly is the project director for UPSTEM and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the program.
  • Allyson Rocks, Administrative Program Manager in the CSME:  Ally is the UPSTEM project coordinator and is also the STEM Transfer Bridge Advisor.
  • Prof. Craig Caldwell, Dean of Math, Science, and Engineering, SLCC:  Craig is our key partner at SLCC and helps with overall strategy, resource allocation, & faculty support.
  • Prof. Jason Taylor, Assistant Professor in Education, Leadership, & Policy:  Jason leads the climate assessment team and supports the faculty learning community.
  • Elizabeth Rogers, Joint appointment in the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence and Office of Inclusive Excellence:  Liz provides support and runs workshops on inclusive instruction for members of the faculty learning community.
  • There are many other collaborators who provide important contributions, including Prof. Martha Bradley, Prof. Janis Louie, Prof. Darryl Butt, Prof. Gina Frey, and Mary Ann Berzins.
  • My role:  I work very closely with Holly and Ally on a weekly basis to keep UPSTEM moving forward and to help with strategy, resource allocation, and faculty support.  I also lead the faculty learning community, the UPSTEM Fellows.  
© Jordan Gerton 2019