Planning Grant

Planning Grant

Results from NASA Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Planning Grant

In the Fall of 2020, UMass Boston and partners received a planning grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) MUREP Program to initiate a Minority Serving Institution-led coalition of organizations and individuals centered in Massachusetts. The intent of this coalition was to join the INCLUDES network and significantly broaden participation in engineering and NASA-related fields.

As part of the NASA PATHS Planning Grant, the team conducted a series of information-gathering focus group workshops for four distinct stakeholder groups: STEM diversity educators, diversity partner organizations, scientists and engineers, and industry representatives, followed by a culminating workshop to build consensus among participants. 

Three consistent themes emerged from among our 46 participants representing 27 organizations:

  1.  There is a need and desire in Massachusetts (MA) for a broad coalition to diversify STEM across and among multiple pathways and experiences;
  2. We have begun to build a trusted network of individuals and organizations, all who have expressed great interest working together with us to achieve our common goals; and
  3. We can do more together as a broad coalition than individually within our organizations.

Regarding the overall goals for diversifying STEM, participants discussed the injustice of the existing system, and the capacities of students from marginalized communities to improve science. Regarding implementation, participants emphasized the importance of focusing on long-term diversity outcomes and cultural change across institutions.

In summary, participants agreed that the existing system for science and engineering is not working as well as it should, but the PATHS coalition can support shifts of individual mindsets that will facilitate the needed cultural change to promote diversity in engineering.

More details on the results of the planning grant can be found here.

Workshop Participant Quotes

“We need to center our work to diversify STEM around people’s intrinsic capacities, rather than using a “deficits” mindset that assumes the problem is with the people and communities we are trying to reach.”

“Some of the biggest barriers to overcome are old-fashioned ideologies in STEM [and] academic systems that favor those who think and look like the scientific establishment.”

“As humans, we bring our lived experiences and perspectives with us even into “objective science” spaces. This influences the “why” as much as the “how” projects, research agendas, and responses to phenomena like climate change. We need these diverse perspectives and experiences to do better science.”

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