The Fisk University Planning Grant will identify sustainable best-practices to increase student retention, learning success and career interest in STEM at the institution. The specific efforts to achieve this includes undertaking a self-study of it STEM undergraduate programs and research infrastructure using a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis, studying national models for undergraduate research, utilizing evidence-based results to develop and institutional plan. A STEM Knowledge Map will be developed to digital capture the content and objectives of all of the STEM courses and depict the relationships to each other. This tool will help in determining what alignments and modifications will be needed in the STEM programs following the self-study. The planning process will include a synthesis of current knowledge about virtual mentoring and plans will include creation of a virtual mentoring community for FISK STEM students. This self evaluation approach can serve as a model for similar other institutions to utilize in gaining understanding of their STEM programs strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities and how to integrate undergraduate research experiences throughout the curriculum..
The HBCU-UP Planning Grant to Fisk University permitted an in-depth institutional self-evaluation of curricular enhancements and research opportunities necessary to assure that an increased number of our students, primarily under-represented minorities, sustained their interest in the sciences and transitioned after graduation to a PhD granting program preparing them for career-long impacts in these areas. Monthly 'discovery sessions' among our faculty Planning Grant Working Group revealed evidence-based strategies for successfully achieving these goals for minority trainees at other institutions. In addition, we visited two instittuions to explore additional strategies we might adopt at Fisk University: Xavier University ( www.xula.edu) , a recipient of an NSF-HBCU-UP Implementation Award that would be an outcome of our planning, and the College of Wooster ( www.wooster,edu) , a premier institution for faculty mentored undergraduate research. The summation of the insights gained from these Planning Grant activities resulted in a proposal to the NSF for an HBCU-UP Implementation Award that was positively reviewed and successfully funded. INTELLECTUAL MERIT: A valuable outcome of the NSF-funded planning grant was the opportunity to align the challenges that interfered with our students excelling in and remaining in the sciences with evidence-based strategies to successfully address those challenges: 1) Innovative changes to introductory mathematics courses that serve as the platform for all STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) study and discovery; 2) Supplementary Instruction (SI; peer-led team based learning) for courses that traditionally represent challenging gatekeeper courses and aligned faculty and SI instructor training for these pedagogies ; and 3) Embedding authentic research into course-associated laboratories and projects in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science. BROADER IMPACT: The broader impact of the findings of our Planning Grant include: 1) enhanced student opportunities for learning and application of that learning in 'relevant' and authentic research in course- associated laboratories and projects due to significant course revision 2) increased student mastery and application of newly acquired knowledge in peer-led Supplementary Instruction sessions, and in faculty-mentored academic year and summer research, 3) transdisciplinary faculty development across all STEM disciplines for embedding authentic research into course-associated laboratories and for synergizing with peer-mentored team learning, achieved via stipended on-site and national workshops, 4) embedded strategies to sustain ongoing faculty development and continually improve our curricular innovation in behalf of our students via Faculty Learning Groups, and 5) ongoing sharing of successful teaching and student learning interventions by presentations at national meetings and publication of evidence-based outcomes.