January 25, 2022

Photo credit: Alex Irklievski

Jobs in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are the most lucrative and fastest growing in the U.S. economy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But hiring in these fields isn’t benefiting workers equally. The STEM workforce has fewer Black and Hispanic workers than the overall workforce, and students of color remain underrepresented in STEM college and graduate school programs. Through a new, generously funded partnership with New York City’s Tech Talent Pipeline, the Teaching and Learning Center at the CUNY Graduate Center intends to help faculty members at CUNY learn to better address these imbalances and prepare students of all backgrounds, particularly underrepresented minority students, for the wide variety of roles that require STEM knowledge and skills. 

Supported by a substantial grant, the Teaching and Learning Center, with the partnership of the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline, will launch the STEM Pedagogy Institute in June 2022. The institute will bring together 20 faculty and 10 graduate student instructors from different campuses and disciplines to develop, carry out, and evaluate inclusive and employment-focused teaching strategies in their courses at all levels throughout CUNY, the nation’s largest urban public university. 

“Enhancing career options for students is a top priority at CUNY, and we are grateful for this opportunity to advance that goal by connecting it explicitly to inclusive teaching practices,” said Luke Waltzer, director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the CUNY Graduate Center. “The STEM Pedagogy Institute will bring CUNY instructors from different fields into conversation about what’s worked for them in some of the country’s most diverse college classrooms. Collaborating with our faculty fellows, we intend to spark new thinking about inclusive practices in STEM pedagogy that can be broadly adapted. We also hope to lift up the CUNY faculty fellows as advocates for inclusive STEM teaching within their departments and programs.”

“Central to our mission at the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline is a focus on providing the local tech industry with the diverse talent it seeks, and to make the opportunities afforded by a tech career accessible to all New Yorkers equitably,” said Robert Domanski, director of higher education at the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline. “We're excited that this institute will allow CUNY STEM faculty who focus on inclusive- and employment-focused teaching practices to scale their impact as national leaders in this space.”

Institute fellows will kick off their work together over three days in June 2022, and then meet regularly through the fall 2022 semester for workshops, seminars, co-working sessions, and a speaker series (open to the public) focused on ways to combine career preparation, culturally inclusive teaching methods, and interdisciplinary thinking with technical training. A goal will be to help the fellows draw on the strengths of CUNY undergraduates so that they can envision and ultimately pursue a variety of STEM-related careers. The interactive programs are also intended to help the faculty fellows better understand the racial and gendered inequalities that skew the college-to-career pipeline; improve the sense of belonging and confidence in future STEM careers felt by Black, Latinx, indigenous, and female students; integrate mentorship, early research, and experiential learning opportunities into coursework; and foster the collaborative learning that boosts student retention.

In designing the curriculum, the Teaching and Learning Center will build on its experience helping graduate student instructors and faculty from all disciplines develop inclusive and culturally responsive practices. It will also distill existing scholarship on inclusive STEM teaching practices and draw on research from the National Association of Colleges and Employers and from career-readiness initiatives across CUNY.

The Teaching and Learning Center, which has developed a successful teaching institute for new graduate student instructors, supported the use of open educational resources by faculty across CUNY, and helped dozens of faculty members shift their courses online during the pandemic, is well-positioned to lead the institute. “We are known for building communities of practice that hold space for reflective teaching and for inviting CUNY faculty into experimentation and conversation about what works in their classrooms,” Waltzer said. 

The Teaching and Learning Center has assembled an advisory committee of stakeholders and partners from across CUNY and will develop a virtual platform to connect the work of the STEM Pedagogy Institute. It will also release the materials developed for the institute as open educational resources and partner with the Graduate Center's Center for Advanced Study in Education to evaluate the impact of the institute. By 2023, the Teaching and Learning Center plans to share the lessons learned from the initiative with stakeholders inside and outside of CUNY.

CUNY faculty and graduate students who teach courses that involve computational methods, community-based science, or early immersion in science research are invited to apply for the STEM Pedagogy Institute fellowship. Application information will be available soon on the Teaching and Learning Center website