Four diverse and prominent institutions of higher education have joined forces to find a new approach to broadening STEM participation. With the generous support of a $2.9-million grant from the National Science Foundation, the University of the Virgin Islands and its partners Fielding Graduate University, North Carolina A&T University and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) have collaborated to launch the Center for Advancing STEM Leadership.

The United States cannot remain a global leader in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) unless it broadens the participation of underrepresented minorities and women in STEM fields. While most efforts to do so have focused primarily on advances in pedagogy, student mentoring, improved facilities and expanded research opportunities, the role of the STEM leader has been under emphasized.

“This work significantly advances the extension of STEM opportunities to women and underrepresented minorities such as African-American, Native American, and Latino leaders in the academy,” Fielding President Katrina Rogers noted. “The commitment that the National Science Foundation has made to these endeavors expands critical efforts, such as this program, to build diverse and inclusive leadership across the country in higher education.”

Over two years, the new Center for Advancing STEM Leadership (CASL) will study the strategies that have been used by leaders at Historically Black Colleges and Universities to produce disproportionately high levels of under-represented minority STEM graduates over the years. The research will test the hypothesis that the success of HBCUs in broadening STEM participation has been due, in large part, to an identifiable set of leadership styles and strategies that may be transferable to other institution types.

“The focus of the grant is an indication that NSF understands the success that UVI has achieved in this area,” said Dr. David Hall, president of the University of the Virgin Islands, “and our potential to work with other institutions to create a national model for success.”

Sharing a commitment to the principle of inclusive excellence, all four members of the Center for Advancing STEM Leadership are leaders in their respective spaces, and crucial to the project’s success. UVI has a major marine biology center. Fielding’s School of Leadership Studies produces change agents in educational and social systems. North Carolina A&T produces more African American engineers than any other university in the US. The AACU is the nation’s largest higher-education association.

The project will not only contribute to the knowledge base on leadership development for broadening participation in STEM, but also translate that evidence into institutional practices.