Individuals from underrepresented and underserved groups comprise a disproportionately smaller percentage of STEM degrees and jobs compared to their percentages in the U.S. population. This is especially true in the geosciences where a mere 8% of the geoscience-related workforce is comprised of individuals from underserved and underrepresented minority groups. Island students have the potential to close this gap, especially if they are trained through culturally-relevant and place-based pathways programs. The NSF INCLUDES Islands Alliance will use a collective impact approach to: (1) build upon two successful NSF INCLUDES Design & Development Launch Pilots (DDLPs) in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam to establish a national network focused on coastal geoscience pathways in seven U.S. or U.S.-affiliated island jurisdictions (U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands) (2) empower youth, undergraduates, graduates, and post-graduate adults within the network through scientific and professional development trainings, mentorship, family support programs, and cohort-building activities to pursue their interests in the marine and environmental sciences, (3) connect partner organizations and individuals to each other and to additional resources, expertise, and mentors, through the creation of new island networks supported by the Islands Alliance Backbone Organization and Steering Committee, and (4) grow the larger NSF INCLUDES community by engaging with other INCLUDES DDLPs, Alliances, the NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub, two professional societies (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, Coastal & Estuarine Research Federation, and the National Sea Grant College Program Network. Through a collective impact approach, the Islands Alliance will provide important new insights into how two aspects of identity construction (individual science identities and collective identities) affect student self-efficacy, interest, engagement, sense of belonging, and persistence in STEM. The ways that pathway and student development vary across different cultural settings and contexts will also be investigated. This is one of the first coordinated, collaborative efforts of it's kind envisaged to connect and include these underrepresented and underserved islands students in the nation's STEM enterprise. Significant future gains stand to be realized by this investment both for participants and national efforts to broaden participation in STEM.
Inclusion of nuanced cultural expertise from diverse underrepresented minority (URM) and underserved populations is needed to broaden participation in the geosciences, including those living in U.S. territories and U.S.-affiliated islands. Island regions are strongly connected to the oceans that surround them and are among the country's most diverse communities with either majority or sizable populations who are URM in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Even so, few projects have attempted to collaborate with these communities to broaden participation of the STEM workforce. Over five years, the Islands Alliance will support 425 middle and high school students in summer & school year geoscience enrichment programs; 90 undergraduate students in early-career research and career experiences; 45 upper-level undergraduate and/or Masters students in an 8-week summer intensive Bridge to Graduate School Program; 20 Bridge Program students who will receive graduate training at partnering institutions (M.S. or Ph.D. level); and 25 Island Alliance Fellows in local workforce positions. The Alliance will document the progress of students along the pathway, and the supports provided to those students, to determine the components of our collective impact approach that promote student success across the pathway, as well as the development of scientific and collective identities among students. Studying the Islands Alliance progress toward broadening participation in these ways has broader impacts for the field. Inclusion of these underrepresented and underserved individuals will increase individual and cognitive diversity within the U.S. STEM workforce, leading to increased innovation and significant outcomes. The Islands Alliance will give participating partners and coastal communities agency to engage, address, and solve collective coastal problems and grow the national STEM workforce by increasing our understanding of context-specific, culturally-relevant best practices for engaging underrepresented and underserved groups in STEM. In addition, it will provide critical capacity building to three National Science Foundation Established Program's to Stimulate Competitive Research jurisdictions (USVI, Guam, and Puerto Rico) and resources to five historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic serving institutions, and other minority serving institutions, while advancing our understanding of collective impact models.
This NSF INCLUDES Alliance is funded by NSF Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES), a comprehensive national initiative to enhance U.S. leadership in discoveries and innovations by focusing on diversity, inclusion and broadening participation in STEM at scale. This Alliance is co-funded by the NSF INCLUDES program, the Directorate for Geoscience, the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP).
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.