Summer Leadership Initiatives & Mini Leadership Seminars

E. Project Background

This project builds on the success of past and present PKAL initiatives focusing on developing leaders with the vision, political skills, and personal commitment to make a difference in American higher education in STEM fields.

This grant supports a three-year series of leadership institutes and related activities for members of the PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century (F21) assuming leadership responsibilities in mathematics and science education within their campus and professional communities. This grant will build on the success of past and present PKAL initiatives focusing on developing leaders with the vision, political skills, and personal commitment to make a difference in American higher education in STEM fields. One Summer Leadership Institute (SLI) a year (2008, 2009, 2010) will be offered, each for fifteen - twenty participants who will develop a leadership agenda for action appropriate for his or her particular circumstances and skills. In addition, each year several one- or two-day Mini-Leadership Seminars (MLS) will be held in conjunction with national disciplinary society meetings and within regional F21 networks to broaden the impact of the leadership institutes and allow topics of leadership specific to a particular audience to be offered. Institute mentors/advisors include recognized leaders within the undergraduate/graduate STEM community who bring to this assignment: diverse disciplinary perspectives; expertise in getting communities to collaborate in setting and moving toward a vision; and a passion for strengthening undergraduate STEM.


To create STEM leaders prepared to take responsibility for confronting challenges and opportunities facing our nation’s educational community. They will have opportunity to explore the intellectual and the “how-to” tools of leadership with a focus on the leader as mentor (leaders developing leaders) and the interdisciplinary leader (leadership in a changing context). The objective is for participants to engage in extended discussions about why and how to make the learning environment for their students and for the undergraduate community in this country more research-rich and more reflective of how 21st century science is practiced within and across disciplines, a learning environment which leads students to a sense of the power of creative inquiry, and motivates them to consider careers in, and/or pursue further study in STEM fields. This vision is coupled with the goal to establish networks that sustain and enhance the work of these leaders, post-SLI, in their day-to-day work as a STEM professional.


To sponsor a five-day institute-retreat for members of the PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century network who are in or moving into formal positions of responsibility on their campus and/or professional associations. To orchestrate a sequence of activities related to the institute, including disciplinary and regional mini-institutes, that leads to in-depth understanding of: i) the changing context in which undergraduate STEM programs must be shaped and with which leaders must deal; ii) the political skills needed to realize a community that collaborates in working toward a shared vision for student learning; and iii) how to develop an agenda for action that builds on personal strengths. Continuous engagement with institute alumni/mentors will help sustain these leaders.


To recognize that leadership can be learned through a process of selfdiscovery and intentional study within a supportive community. The premise of this project, however, is that preparation for leadership in 21st century STEM must be undertaken from the perspective of the present and the future of these disciplines, rather than from a general survey of leadership. Unique to this project is the exploration of generic leadership qualities within the context of examining and coming to understand a specific vision for STEM education in the 21st century. Further, this project engages leaders at an early stage of their career and provides continuing support for their work, recognizing that leadership training cannot be a one-time exercise. BROADER IMPACT. To foster a formal network of leaders that has a collective impact on shaping the future of undergraduate STEM in this country, as they are more knowledgeable of contemporary issues and of the role of leaders in influencing communities of practice. This network, unique as it cut transcends across boundaries of discipline, institutional type, and geographic region, will have a positive effect on the quality of scientific and technological communities far into this century. Equally important, this project will have an impact on the campuses of individual participants, as they gain the ability to build the collaborating communities that overcome obstacles to reform, leaders open to new ideas and with a commitment to explore those ideas with their community. Finally, the ultimate beneficiary of these institutes will be students, who will have the good fortune to work with faculty who are open to new ideas and willing to take intellectual and pedagogical risks.