Icon for: Lawanda Cummings

LAWANDA CUMMINGS

University of the Virgin Islands
Public Discussion

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  • Icon for: Lawanda Cummings

    Lawanda Cummings

    Lead Presenter
    Director of STEM Education Research
    May 9, 2022 | 02:26 p.m.

    Greetings from the lovely United States Virgin Islands!

    We are excited to have you join us in conversation on the strategies taken by our HBCU to build a supportive community and resources for faculty and student research development. These measures navigated the new virtual structures instituted because of the pandemic and addressed by skills acquisition and social support.

    Some questions to think about:

    1) What are your thoughts about the process for many teaching colleges to transition to a research focus?

    2) What efforts did your institution or program take to retain a sense of community? and what technological interfaces helped or hurt people's sense of connection?

    2) What psychosocial factors would you assume are critical to focus on for faculty and student support during times of disaster? and especially to promote research productivity.

    Can't wait to chat! 

     

     
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    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Ann Podleski

    Ann Podleski

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 10, 2022 | 07:44 a.m.

    Collaboration and partnerships with nearby universities and research institutes, with the partners coming on our campus to work with both faculty and students was key in fostering research at Harris-Stowe State University - an HBCU in St. Louis.  Having many of the activities related to research development visible and accessible helped foster the sense of community.  I do think the "virtual learning" years have made it challenging to engagement, but has also opened up opportunities to engage that otherwise wouldn't have been possible. 

    I loved the ideas in your project and can relate to the analogy of "going to the gym by yourself vs with a group" and I thinking of ways to incorporate that strategy in some of my classes - especially those that include projects.

     
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    Lawanda Cummings
    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Lawanda Cummings

    Lawanda Cummings

    Lead Presenter
    Director of STEM Education Research
    May 11, 2022 | 06:01 p.m.

    There is a definite difference in how "support" and "community" are established during the virtual years that have required our team to think beyond just skill development to social-emotional support. One participant shared that she came to the sessions to know she was not alone in trying to continue the work during a pandemic.

     
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    Lawanda Cummings
  • Icon for: Ekundayo Shittu

    Ekundayo Shittu

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 10, 2022 | 10:39 a.m.

    The creation of networks is crucial especially for early career people. This is impressive! I voted!!

     
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    Lawanda Cummings
    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Lawanda Cummings

    Lawanda Cummings

    Lead Presenter
    Director of STEM Education Research
    May 11, 2022 | 06:02 p.m.

    Thank you! I always tell my students that their network is tied to their networth. We need professional connections to continue to build viable research and innovation.

     
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    Amanda Rugenski
    Lawanda Cummings
  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Researcher
    May 10, 2022 | 03:04 p.m.

    Dr. Cummings, 

       This video presents a model that I hope can be adopted widely.  It makes so much sense!  But it clearly takes a lot of organization to build the right structures and processes to support this kind of mentorship and peer-to-peer support, while not being intrusive or bureaucratic. 

         Partnerships seem to be really important in helping teaching colleges support their faculty to engage in more research.  I had a colleague at a state college (now university) that was undergoing just this transition, and it was hard on her (and her faculty) because the administration did not understand some of the systemic challenges facing faculty — too large a teaching load, few lab resources, accounting practices that did not accommodate idifferent kinds of partnerships -- and also unclarity about how new research work "counted" as compared with faculty service (e.g. committees) and teaching, still the primariy priority.  A partnership with an outside NGO was exciting enough to the college that it gave my colleague some leverage to talk aboutwhat it would take to deliver on the research proposal.  They made ad hoc adjustments, respondiing to this one case, but have been slow to make systemic adjustments for the faculty as a whole. Some of the problem is competing priorities, some of it is lack of imagination (if I can put it that way), and of course some of it is a matter of funding or lack of it... 

       Looking forward to hearing more!

     
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    Lawanda Cummings
    Agda Cordero
    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Lawanda Cummings

    Lawanda Cummings

    Lead Presenter
    Director of STEM Education Research
    May 11, 2022 | 06:14 p.m.

    Everything you said is a reality for most HBCU faculty members. Many institutions aspire to be like research-focused institutions for the funding, status, and visibility to industries.

    But the shift is both organizational and cultural. As a long-term faculty member, I tried to do it all (teach my assigned 4-5 classes a semester, manage multiple grants, present, publish, mentor students, work in administration) and I was burned out in 4-5 years.

    Our team has been trying instead to help our faculty re-frame the concept of research to encompass the work they do in the classroom to maximize those heavy teaching loads. We want to help promote measures of success (promotion) that are more closely aligned to hard work happening in these classrooms to promote student performance and preparation for the future STEM workforce. 

     

     
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    Amy Robertson
    Ann Podleski
    Lawanda Cummings
  • Icon for: Ann Podleski

    Ann Podleski

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 11, 2022 | 07:51 p.m.

    Thank you Lawanda - very well said!!  

  • Icon for: Jay Labov

    Jay Labov

    Facilitator
    Currently STEM Education Consultant
    May 10, 2022 | 04:23 p.m.

    Thank you for submitting this video. Your approaches to addressing the issues that you’ve raised in your video and introductory remarks are holistic and focus on a number of issues that are both simultaneous and overlapping.

    The first question that you ask is also very pertinent to my experience even though I was on the faculty many years ago of a small liberal arts college. But the issues were the same. In our case, we applied for and eventually received a very large grant (for the College) to improve science programs. Part of that improvement (and perhaps a somewhat unintended consequence) is that the sciences began to move from a culture that was primarily focused on excellence in teaching to one that began to emphasize research productivity to a much greater extent. However, expectations for teaching and service did not become reduced, at least initially, and the facilities and equipment available was still inadequate to foster levels of research productivity that could be sustained and supported by major funding agencies. But there was increased expectation for faculty to receive grants (in a highly competitive grant environment) and to publish in major international journals.

    I moved from that faculty position to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine while this transition was in full swing. What I learned from my work to improve STEM education while working at the National Academies is that primarily teaching institutions are at their best when they find ways to integrate research activities with their education missions. This means emphasizing student research through undergraduate research experiences (both apprentice- and course-based), research that benefits the campus and surrounding communities, and research that is educationally, culturally, and environmentally relevant to the faculty and students who are engaged in it. Of course, there could be a potential mismatch if the faculty view the role of research differently than academic administrators, who may be looking to increase the institution’s reputation or external funding stream through greater expectations for research. But, with a student- and community-focused plan for research, funding may be more obtainable from local sources such as local governments, business and industry, and local or regional foundations.

    If you’re not familiar with it, the National Academies published a report in 2019 titled “Minority Serving Institutions: America’s Underutilized Resource for Strengthening the STEM Workforce.” More recent reports from the National Academies, e.g., “Imagining the Future of Undergraduate STEM Education: Proceedings of a Virtual Symposium” (2022) might also be helpful.

    Might you also be able to provide some additional details about the first two components of VI-SERP (1) STEM teacher professional development, 2) student mentoring/training)? Does STEM teacher professional development refer to your own faculty, to preparing future K-12 and undergraduate faculty, or both?

    Thank you again for this important contribution!

     
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    Lawanda Cummings
    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Ann Podleski

    Ann Podleski

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 10, 2022 | 04:33 p.m.

    A direct quote from Jay Labov's post that I have found to be true at the small HBCU where I teach that went from predominantly preparing teachers for the St. Louis public schools, to a statewide STEM mission with an increased focus on research.  (But faculty members still have the same teaching load).  When we are able to "emphasize student research through undergraduate research experiences (both apprentice- and course-based), research that benefits the campus and surrounding communities, and research that is educationally, culturally, and environmentally relevant to the faculty and students who are engaged in it", we have made some inroads into research, but without some grants and partnerships, this is still very difficult to balance.

     
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    Lawanda Cummings
    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Lawanda Cummings

    Lawanda Cummings

    Lead Presenter
    Director of STEM Education Research
    May 11, 2022 | 06:27 p.m.

    Ann, you are so right. At UVI we have some amazing opportunities afforded to our students through funded initiatives like our S-STEM and Emerging Caribbean Scientist programs. This has helped normalize research for many of our students but it still feels siloed from the larger culture of the campus. Our hope is that mentoring training for faculty and students will increase awareness and effective practice of strategies for student (and early career) success. 

    We also couple much of our work to current research and efforts happening on our campus and among our faculty. This is our most efficient approach but it leaves out a lot of faculty who have not pursued research funding. Thank you for the comment

     
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    Ann Podleski
    Lawanda Cummings
  • Icon for: Paige Evans

    Paige Evans

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 10, 2022 | 04:37 p.m.

    This is great support for faculty.  Thank you for sharing!

     
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    Lawanda Cummings
  • Icon for: Justice Walker

    Justice Walker

    Facilitator
    Assistant Professor
    May 10, 2022 | 09:54 p.m.

    This looks like a wonderful program VOWS—which seems (from the illustrative case in your video) to have a significant impact on student scholarship. 

    I noticed in your description that you reference "psychological and professional skill development factors" and so my question comes from a learning design perspective.  I wondered if you could share a bit more about these specific perspectives and how that translated into the VOWS intervention design?

    In response to one of your questions—I think having colleges shift toward research emphasis is a fantastic prospect; however, I also recognize that occupational attainment in research is only one endeavor for science education and experiences.  I would ask, in response to your point, how we might create learning experience that emphasize both great instruction (for a teaching institution) along with research training AND (I would add) opportunities to innovate.  I've seen some really interesting entrepreneurial initiatives that leverage foundational research to innovate.  Here is a great example of what I mean at Synthetic Biology. In any event, I hope that engages with your question.  

    Thanks for sharing what seems to be an important project—at the watershed point of transition for institutions historically focused on teaching, but looking to include research initiative in programmatic offerings. 

     
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    Lawanda Cummings
  • Icon for: Lawanda Cummings

    Lawanda Cummings

    Lead Presenter
    Director of STEM Education Research
    May 15, 2022 | 06:44 p.m.

    Our programs address some of the psychosocial barriers identified in URM inclusion research like imposter syndrome, sense of belonging, and growth mindset (to name a few). We customized the focus and support based on the population being served and the barriers identified in the literature and from our initial needs assessment.

    SO for VOWs, which is for women scholars, we addressed belonging, imposter syndrome, teaching strategies for creating intentions, and connecting all this work to a larger objective to add our voices to our male-dominated fields...for the next young female scholar.

    FOr the undergraduate students, there is training academic navigatonal skils, how to do research writing which is supplemented by faculty, and mentoring. I hope this helps

     
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    Amy Robertson
  • Icon for: Jayashree Balakrishna

    Jayashree Balakrishna

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 10, 2022 | 10:19 p.m.

    Loved this idea. We got a supplemental Grant to build research capacity at our institute and to get faculty and students involved in research. For us it made sense to have interdisciplinary research based on our faculty size at that time, and of course collaborate with institutes that already were very research based. Our research on interdisciplinary plant science and data analysis was a really good fit for us as we had a greenhouse and also were given a plot of land to do research. We had the advantage of a strong partnership with a neighboring institute that is well established in research and with  equipment and expertise. Our students were visible and influenced the larger college. 

    Interdisciplinary research with many faculty involved also places less burden on each individual faculty when you have a full teaching load and so has a better chance of success with significant student engagement. It also allows for students to participate at varying levels based on their interest and time. 

    I really like the idea of professional development for Emerging Researchers.

     
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    Ann Podleski
    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Jay Labov

    Jay Labov

    Facilitator
    Currently STEM Education Consultant
    May 15, 2022 | 08:56 p.m.

    I agree that interdisciplinary research is especially appropriate for institutions of higher education that tout having programs that enable students to make connections across disciplines. A useful resource to look at evidence about the efficacy of such programs on student learning can be found in a 2018 publication from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine titled The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Higher Education: Branches from the Same TreeI helped staff this project. An important resource (although now somewhat dated) associated with the report is a spreadsheet of 200+ interdisciplinary courses, research, and other learning experiences. The spreadsheet provides links to each of these resources and primary contacts for them. The link to these resources is found by clicking here.

  • Icon for: Anne Kern

    Anne Kern

    Facilitator
    Professor
    May 11, 2022 | 07:40 p.m.

    Excellent overview of much-needed programs that supports outcomes needed for faculty success. Besides mentoring within the “academies’” expectations for success, are there any other topics of social justice and understanding of equity and inclusion that are discussed. For example, an understanding of institutional/professional power and leadership, or understanding and highlighting one’s own cultural/community wealth to aid in promoting one’s identity and assets?

  • Icon for: Lawanda Cummings

    Lawanda Cummings

    Lead Presenter
    Director of STEM Education Research
    May 15, 2022 | 06:34 p.m.

    I would say there are many unofficial discussions about how to best navigate the systems we've inherited. in VOWs we have used critical partners in the past to build relationships and accountability but also some group conversation space to talk about barriers to goal. Many times among the group there are viable navigational strategies. I love this idea and we will revisit to dig deeper into building a culture where we can all feel supported

  • May 12, 2022 | 11:02 a.m.

    Such an interesting approach. I love the writing group as an ongoing support for early faculty. Thank you for doing such needed work! 

     
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    Amy Robertson
    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Lawanda Cummings

    Lawanda Cummings

    Lead Presenter
    Director of STEM Education Research
    May 15, 2022 | 06:08 p.m.

    Thank you!!

  • Icon for: Andrew Jackson

    Andrew Jackson

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 12, 2022 | 04:11 p.m.

    Developing writing skills along with research skills are very valuable to industry. What is the title of the published papaer?

     

     
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    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Lawanda Cummings

    Lawanda Cummings

    Lead Presenter
    Director of STEM Education Research
    May 15, 2022 | 06:07 p.m.

    We have not written a paper on this process yet. I will let my team know we should start thinking in that direction. We've only been running VOWS for a year.

  • Icon for: Amy Robertson

    Amy Robertson

    Researcher
    May 16, 2022 | 06:51 p.m.

    I'm so glad to know about this project!  I know for me that early career support in the form of writing groups -- like your participant here describes -- were absolutely critical for me, and I appreciate that you provide additional support and professional development beyond that.  This is inspiring me to find a writing group now!

  • May 17, 2022 | 10:57 a.m.

    Very needed support in our HBCU community - supporting writing and scholarship. Continue the great work! 

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