The mission of the STEM Learning Center is to facilitate institutional partnerships, support effective initiatives, and advance scholarship that promote equitable access to high-quality, STEM experiences, resources, tools, and expertise.
Our vision is that every person has equitable access to STEM experiences that are inclusive and relevant.
In 2017, the STEM Learning Center (SLC) became a university-wide center under the UA Office of Research, Discovery, and Innovation (RDI) as a centralized hub connecting resources, people, and best practices to inspire and sustain interest in STEM and STEM pathways. The SLC was born out of the need to connect people and resources for the focused purpose of creating a cohesive and effective STEM network for southern Arizona in order to broaden participation in STEM. Through our partnerships, research, and support for effective practices and projects, we seek to investigate and eliminate barriers that limit access to STEM and STEM pathways for diverse populations. We have brought together faculty, programs, evaluators, and industry partners to move this work forward and generate new insights. Our strategies and activities emerged as responses to issues identified by our constituents.
Our local communities in southern Arizona—public, private, and charter schools; homeschool, non-profit, and youth development organizations; businesses and industries; and the greater university community—play a significant role in building broad and robust STEM pathways. Their individual and collective voices made clear that, in order to provide inclusive and relevant STEM experiences, they would need easier ways to collaborate and streamline access to resources, showcase best practices and successful efforts, and better understand our strengths and problems. Further, each was in pursuit to answer similar questions regarding STEM. What were the greatest opportunity gaps to broaden participation in STEM? Who was having the greatest impact in generating and maintaining interest in STEM for diverse populations? Who were potential partners interested in collaborating? What did the data show about enrollment, persistence, and graduation in STEM by demographic group? What tools are available to evaluate the effectiveness of programs using common measures? What practices could STEM programs implement to ensure they are being inclusive and attracting diverse students?
In response, the STEM Learning Center is focused on facilitating cross-disciplinary, inter-institutional, collaborative teams in order to address the most pressing issues related to broadening participation in STEM; identifying programmatic partners who engage a broad and diverse population of STEM learners with research-based, inclusive practices; collecting data that allows our community to better understand the current STEM landscape; and offering consultations and trainings on incorporating inclusive practices into projects’ design.