Community as What Matters, What Works, and What Lasts

Several themes are evident in the work of colleges and universities making demonstrable progress in transforming the undergraduate learning environment in fields of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering. One theme resonates most vibrantly– the focus on community as both means of and goal for institutional renewal.

The concept of community is shaping efforts at institutions in many ways:

  • as they focus on their students.
    These colleges and universities know who their students are; they have asked questions about the background, strengths and weaknesses, career aspirations of their students, about the success and retention of students in the science and mathematics program on their campus. These academic leaders are intent on introducing students to and involving them in a STEM community that works and learns together; they are committed to ensuring students realize they are part of a larger community of scientists and scholars, within and beyond that campus. Equally important, these institutions are giving attention to all students, not just to a particular segment of their undergraduate population, as they shape and reshape the learning environment.

  • as they focus on the process of institutional change and renewal.
    These campuses recognize that the collaborative efforts of an informed community, campus-wide, is key to initiating reforms and innovations that flourish over the long-term Thus, they take care to build a common understanding of who their students are, place attention on determining and articulating specific goals for student learning in the context of their institutional mission and identity, and provide open and persistent opportunities for discussion and dialogue about those goals, as their work proceeds.

  • as they connect to broader societal needs and to the future.
    The most effective undergraduate STEM programs serve current and future needs of science and society. They are designed to instill in all students the capacity for responsible citizenship in a world increasingly dominated by science and technology; moreover, such programs are designed to recruit, retain, and prepare students toward that end.