SFAz Center for STEM

The SFAz Center for STEM

at Arizona State University

Vision

Foster inclusive environments for STEM students who use the community college system and provide access along their pathway to achieve certificates, associate degrees, bachelor's degrees and advanced degrees

Mission

  • Focus on students who have not traditionally been well represented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math including under-represented minorities, students from rural communities, and first-generation college students
  • Support institutions in Arizona and nationally that are Hispanic-serving, Minority-serving, or Rural institutions
  • Serve as a national model for STEM Pathways and for collaborative educational development that aligns to economic drivers and demonstrates community leadership

Rationale/Why

We address three National Focus Areas:

  • Hispanic Population:  Explosive growth + Achievement Gap
  • STEM Workforce:  National imperative to graduate more STEM students with higher earning potential 
  • Community Colleges:  An undervalued resource, these institutions lead students directly to the workforce and often begin a pathway to Bachelor’s and advanced degrees

Approach

The SFAz Center for STEM serves as the collective impact backbone organization – a collaborator and facilitator, not a competitor.  SFAz STEM is uniquely positioned to offer technical assistance, mentoring and guidance systemically along the full K-16 to industry pipeline, focusing on community colleges and technical high school districts.

Services

The center’s services include STEM assessment, STEM strategic planning, STEM research concept development, STEM grantsmanship institutes, STEM proposal development and STEM outreach broader impacts. For detailed information about the center’s services, please contact Caroline VanIngen-Dunn at cvaninge@asu.edu.

For more information about the SFAZ Center for STEM, please contact azaragoza@asu.edu.

Programs and initiatives

KickStarter Program

The center’s KickStarter Program is a technical assistance program that prepares community-college Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) to compete successfully for federal funds intended for student recruitment, retention, transfer, and completion in STEM fields. KickStarter provides HSIs with a blueprint to build and sustain a strong STEM foundation, augmented with innovations in STEM education.

The program begins with an application, which covers NSF guidelines that will help applicants develop sustainable approaches grounded in STEM. The program uses the STEMx™ endorsed STEM Pathways Model and Guide to assist community colleges in assessing their STEM capabilities, developing strategies that take into account these capabilities and increasing recruitment and retention of students in STEM career and transfer pathway programs. The program is made possible with support from NSF.  For more information about the KickStarter program, please contact Cynthia Pickering at cynthia.pickering@asu.edu.

 

KickStarter Achievements:

SFAz STEM has demonstrated noteworthy accomplishments over the past five years in the KickStarter program, involving two dozen two-year HSIs (with no prior NSF awards) submitting 34 proposals to six NSF programs resulting in a 53% NSF proposal award rate and 15M in funding. Other results for the KickStarter project may be viewed in this video, which summarizes a peer-reviewed paper published in 2020 by the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). Over time, the KickStarter process and the results improved. For example, the cohort 3 award rate is 83% compared with 36% for cohort 2 and 50% for Cohort 1, and time to proposal submission has shortened. Colleges with awards have reported broader impacts to 1,017 students, 341 faculty, 35 industry partners, 21 K-12 partners and 26 post-secondary partners. The following three examples are KickStarter colleges with recent awards.

Phoenix College was awarded a $1.5 million HSI grant from the NSF to improve recruitment and retention of students in STEM.  By incorporating multi-disciplinary Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) into STEM curricula in colleges throughout the Maricopa Community College District, the capacity building program is expected to affect more than 3,000 community college students.

Pima Community College was awarded a $298,323 HSI grant from the NSF to improve undergraduate biology education by implementing a Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) and studying the CURE's impact on students. Students participating in the CURE will generate, analyze, and publish data that will be new to science. The opportunity to contribute to scientific knowledge is expected to increase students' positive feelings toward science, which may in turn increase their persistence and graduation in STEM fields.

Central Arizona College, was awarded a $225,000 Advanced Technological Education (ATE) award from the NSF. In collaboration with industry partners, the program will develop and pilot curricula for an advanced fabrication and joining program to prepare Advanced Welding Process Technicians. 

Middle-skills internship programs

Arizona’s Career and Technical Educational Districts (CTEDs) and community colleges develop high-quality, sustainable middle-skills internship programs for their students. Areas of focus include health sciences, medical, dental and veterinary assistants; information technology and cyber security; manufacturing; engineering; and energy and utilities.

Critical to the success of each program is the time and effort dedicated to building strong partnerships with local business and industry, and allowing them to “test drive the talent” produced by Arizona community colleges and CTEDs. These business and industry partners provide on-the-job work experiences for students and, in return, build a pipeline of skilled employees to match their local workforce needs.

SFAZ selects these partner institutions through a competitive review process. With support from JPMorgan Chase Foundation, SFAz awards the institutions with seed funding and provides grant oversight and guidance helping to ensure programs get off the ground, stay on track, meet their goals, and are sustainable.

If you are a business or funding organization and would like more information on how to become engaged in these programs, please contact Anna Tanguma-Gallegos at anna.tanguma@asu.edu.

Rural Community College Collaboration (SFAz+8)

Arizona’s eight rural community colleges, facilitated by SFAz, established themselves as a collaborative around STEM education, building programs that support their STEM pathways development and tracking data that have demonstrated an increase in the number of rural students enrolling in and completing STEM programs.

Common challenges were identified that can be shared by rural colleges nationwide as key issues for STEM education success. SFAz+8 will continue its quest to address these challenges, particularly a lack of mathematical competency as a barrier to STEM, which in turn will serve as an incentive for the colleges to continue their work together.

If you are a business or funding organization and would like more information on how to become engaged in this program, please contact Anita Grierson at anita.grierson@asu.edu.

Recent achievements and news updates

  1. The NSF recently awarded a $600,000 grant to the center to support an Advanced Technological Education Project. Math and CTE faculty from eight rural Arizona community colleges will collaborate to alleviate challenges students face in technical math, which prevent them from completing their technical credentials.
  2. Excelencia in Education and the center recently joined forces to plan a Regional Institute for HSIs and emerging HSIs. Planned for spring 2020, this institute will prepare and prioritize strategies for HSIs to improve serving their STEM students in alignment with the Seal of Excelencia.