This proposal is for the evaluation of a currently-funded NSF program: The AGEP Collaborative Research Training: North Carolina Alliance to Create Opportunity Through Education (OPT-ED). In evaluating the program, the OPT-ED alliance administration and partners seek to accomplish two objectives: 1. Assess the extent to which OPT-ED has been successful in meeting the goals of AGEP and its specific objectives; and 2. Inform the OPT-ED alliance about effective strategies in accomplishing AGEP goals as it moves forward. As the OPT-ED alliance implements strategies that are designed to increase the enrollment and retention of URM students in STEM disciplines and advance into the professoriate, it is important to assess the impact of each program component and the strategies that are most effective in producing the desired outcomes. Evaluation results are intended to inform OPT-ED alliance partners as they plan future strategies and activities. It is also intended to inform the alliance about additional partners that may be included (e.g., community colleges, early childhood educators, etc.); existing and new resources to tap into; and potentially new concepts to incorporate. Broader Impact The OPT-ED alliance strategies are designed to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups; namely, URM doctoral graduates and faculty in STEM fields. The evaluation of OPT-ED seeks to identify those strategies that have proved to be most effective in raising the interest of URM students in STEM majors; retaining them through their college years up to receiving the doctorate degree; and impacting their decision to pursue STEM faculty positions. Successful strategies have the potential for replication across other universities at a national level. Moreover, the evaluation will serve to assess the extent to which the alliance serves as a model for replication. One of the questions the evaluation seeks to answer is the role each partner plays in enhancing the enrollment and retention of URM students in STEM majors. Evaluation results will identify the most critical type of partners, the type and level of networking and collaboration across partners, and the barriers that must be overcome for implementing a successful alliance. The national concern over the small presence of URM groups in STEM fields is clearly warranted. The OPT-ED alliance is established to implement strategies and activities that raise URM student interest in STEM disciplines and help them overcome obstacles to their retention until completion of doctoral degrees. This evaluation will identify critical partnerships and successful strategies in enhancing URM student enrollment and retention in STEM majors and careers.
The goal of this project was to perform a full summative evaluation of the NSF-funded NC OPT-ED (North Carolina Alliance to Create Opportunity Through Education) AGEP program in order to gain information regarding the associated effects of the program components and the unanticipated consequences/outcomes. This evaluation was performed by an outside team of evaluators, with the intent to contribute significantly to the body of knowledge on intervention programs such as AGEP projects. This particular AGEP project, NC OPT-ED, was an alliance among the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University. The strength and uniqueness of this network was its incorporation of diversity programs throughout North Carolina into a broader alliance to form pathways to the PhD degree and the professoriate for underrepresented minority students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines. Broader Impacts The evaluation of the NC OPT-ED program identified strategies that have proven to be most effective in raising the interest of underrepresented minority students in STEM majors; retaining these students through the tenure of their program; and impacting their decision to pursue STEM faculty positions. Successful strategies have the potential for replication across other universities on a national level. Additionally, the evaluation served to assess the extent to which the alliance serves as a model for replication. Overall Conclusions/Statement The overarching conclusion indicated considerable evidence that the NC OPT-ED AGEP program was largely successful in contributing to the number of underrepresented minorities receiving STEM graduate degrees at both the masters and doctoral levels in North Carolina since its inception in 1999. Notably, the most significant weakness was the absence of a systematic or coherent program evaluation design throughout the history of the program. The unique aspect of this work was a final, summative evaluation report with an emphasis on outcomes rather than output. This report will not only be presented to NSF but also avenues for dissemination in the academic arena (peer-reviewed journals, reports, professional conferences, etc.) will be pursued.