FIPSE Funded Networks

"We must collaborate. The time is too short and the task too great to do otherwise."

This prescient admonition was given to the PKAL community in 1991 by George E. Brown, speaking from his position as Chair of the Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives to the 1st PKAL National Colloquium.

Over the past decade, much more has been learned about the power and potential of networks as catalysts for reform, with the experience of a host of networks making a difference in the quality of undergraduate STEM programs. These networks are both the cause and effect of successful efforts toward reform, as increasing numbers of change agents are becoming visible in disciplinary, interdisciplinary and virtual communities.

Recognizing the power and potential of networks, PKAL has outlined a three-year series of coordinated activities to identify, build and connect networks around the country. With support from FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education), PKAL is bringing new networks online in a select number of geographic regions, enhancing the work of existing networks and collaborations within disciplinary and interdisciplinary communities, and focusing on developing virtual communities of practice.

This FIPSE/PKAL effort is based on our conviction that strong networks have the following characteristics:

  • a common goal, one that is arrived at through consensus, and probably through long-term engagement and communication within the potential group of collaborators
  • people with a passion to make a difference and for whom this engagement is at the top of their list of priorities for expending time and energy
  • regular and persistent avenues for communication, both face-to-face and electronic
  • the visible involvement of persons with a stake in the success of the network, including presidents, deans and others who have leadership responsibilities on a campus or within a professional society
  • one or two people who take responsibility to be the connectors, people with credibility in the community of potential collaborators and within the stakeholder community
  • a vision about how working together is more effective than working in isolation
  • an affective component, that people come to enjoy participating and have a sense of belonging.