Icon for: Matt Whittaker

MATT WHITTAKER

ASSisT: Alliance to Strengthen the STEM Tapestry
University of Utah
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: William McHenry

    William McHenry

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2017 | 12:58 p.m.

    Great project. The research and evaluation elements of the Alliance to strength the STEM Tapestry should yield valuable knowledge on how to effectively reach this population. How do you determine eligibility for the project?

     
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    Matt Whittaker
  • Icon for: Matt Whittaker

    Matt Whittaker

    Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 06:34 p.m.

    Great question! Given the sensitive nature of working with these affected groups, we are still in the process of finalizing those details with our community partners regarding how their recommendations in identifying participants/establishing and maintaining contact with each cohort should be approached. As that information continues to trickle in over the next few weeks, we should be better able to effectively answer that question.

    Thanks! 

    -Matt

     
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  • Icon for: Sharon Lynch

    Sharon Lynch

    Researcher
    May 15, 2017 | 01:58 p.m.

    What an interesting project and a real need for the large numbers of incarcerated people who need to find a way to re-enter the community. STEM skills seem like a good way back in. 

    Any longitudinal data? 

    Thanks.

     
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    Matt Whittaker
  • Icon for: Matt Whittaker

    Matt Whittaker

    Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 06:43 p.m.

    Thanks for the comment and question! No project-specific longitudinal data exists for post-release populations. Our hope to is to use this pilot in establishing a baseline. 

    Cheers! 

    -Matt

     
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    Jake Foster

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 03:41 p.m.

    Congratulations on beginning this a unique program with a such a high-need population.  Changing an individual's relationship with STEM certainly can have positive benefits. What would you consider a success for this work -- is changing their STEM identity enough, even if they don't pursue STEM in a significant way after participation, or would you expect success to include further pursuit of STEM studies or career options?

     
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    Matt Whittaker

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 07:59 a.m.

    Great question! For us, the central idea is more the former than the latter. We want to better understand the STEM tapestry from the perspective of an individuals identity within STEM (whatever that may or may not be), as opposed to just working to connect these folks to STEM study and careers. However, that's not to say that the latter is not a welcome outcome. 

    Thanks again! 

    -Matt

     
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  • Icon for: Heidi Schweingruber

    Heidi Schweingruber

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 10:38 p.m.

    Really interesting project. How did you develop the model and the three components? The theater and self-narrative strike me as particularly innovative in relation to STEM and I'm curious about how you identified them as potential strategies for connecting people to STEM. Also, how are you framing "science" in the context of the project and how do you help participants make connections to it? Particularly for the self-narrative and the ecological reconstruction? 

     
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  • Icon for: Matt Whittaker

    Matt Whittaker

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 02:16 p.m.
    The Principal Investigator, Nalini Nadkarni (Professor, Dept of Biology, Univ. of Utah) responds:     I am a forest ecologist, and am deeply interested in interdisciplinary research. Prior to joining the faculty at the Univ. of Utah, I taught for 20 years at the Evergreen State College, a liberal arts school that is dedicated to interdisciplinary teaching and learning. I often co-taught with faculty in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Programs addressed a single academic theme, and examined it through the lenses of different disciplines, often arriving at insights that would not have arisen if only one discipline had been involved. When I came to the Univ. of Utah in 2011, I identified other faculty and programs that shared an interest in inter disciplinary work.    The challenges posed by the INCLUDES program seemed to me to demand widely (and wildly) interdisciplinary approaches. Programs that have enlisted drawn only from the sciences and from STEM education have only limited value for those who are “STEM-disenfranchised”, those who literally do not “see” themselves as belonging in the enterprise of science or the STEM workforce. In developing our project, I drew upon my existing contacts in other departments and disciplines outside of science and STEM education to create novel interventions that might take a first step in shifting the self-identity of STEM-disenfranchised individuals to recognizing that they are capable of understanding and perhaps participating in science. If we are successful in this critical step, then we can guide them to existing programs that support participation in STEM higher ed and workforce roles, and/or set them up to be citizens who view science in a positive way.    Specifically, I drew together colleagues from three areas: drama/theatre; social science/identity studies; and ecological restoration. I had encountered and worked with these individuals during a transdisciplinary colloquium I created and coordinated in 2014 on the topic of “disturbance and recovery”. I invited 10 faculty members from a broad range of academic fields that study processes of disturbance and recovery. We met once a month for a year to share ideas, approaches, tools, models, and methods to understand these processes. During the Colloquium, I learned about the transformative power of devised drama to change identities of participants. By inviting participants to reate a piece of theater and literally “play the role” of scientists, they may experience insights of belonging to the world of academics. The methodology of recording narrative and how that action can shift self-image and increase self-understanding may help reveal the specific points in a participant’s life that turned him/her away from considering science as an avenue for learning or profession.   In 2003, I founded a project to bring science lectures and conservation projects to the incarcerated in Washington State and Utah, and through these activies, have learned and documented that when those who are in nature- and education-deprived settings (such as prisons, jails, and juvenile detention centers) are provided with the opportunity to work with living things, contribute directly to ecological restoration projects (e.g., rearing endangered frogs, plants, and butterflies for release in conservation projects), they undergo tremendous shifts in their self-esteem and self-efficacy.    In addition to these three interventions, we will also be offering an array of what we call “portals to science”, in which participants will visit biotech labs, field sites, computer centers, student tutoring areas, the University student union so that they can witness and, in some cases, participate in the day to day of what learning and working in science is all about. Their reflections and responses can draw upon these experiences in the devised drama and self-narratives interventions.    The INCLUDES program gave my colleagues and me the opportunity to integrate these ideas, experiences, and approaches to forge interventions that have the potential to draw those who see themselves outside of science into science. Our research activities this year will allow us to see whether these approaches are useful for ourselves and others interested in broadening participation in science.    Thanks for your interest.  Nalini
     
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  • Icon for: Janet Yowell

    Janet Yowell

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 19, 2017 | 11:36 a.m.

    Hi Matt,

     

    I just wanted to say again how interesting I think your project is (I innudated you with accolades in DC last month and bent your ear). Great video (although you mentioned it was before you, it's still awesome!).

     

    I wanted to encourage you to reach out to the Alexis Petri who is with the UK-Missouri INCLUDES project, as they have a connection with seasoned storyteller, Laura Packer, who is great at teaching/guiding storytelling mentors on how to think about and weave STEM into stories. Alexis may have some information she can forward you on the art.

     

    Just an FYI.

     
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  • Icon for: Matt Whittaker

    Matt Whittaker

    Presenter
    May 19, 2017 | 11:43 a.m.

    Thanks so much, Janet! And thank you for this recommendation. Sounds like a great connection!

    Cheers,

    Matt

     
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