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Transforming STEM Departments for Inclusion: Creative Innovation, Challenges, Adaptation, and Sustainability at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith

Broadening Participation in STEM

ISBN: 978-1-78756-908-9, eISBN: 978-1-78756-907-2

ISSN: 1479-3644

Publication date: 28 February 2019


Strengthening the nation’s technological workforce, competing and expanding its relevance in the global economy, and maintaining personal as well as homeland security will be highly dependent on the quantity, quality, and diversity of the next generations of scientists, engineers, technologists, and mathematicians. Production of a diverse generation of human resources with relevant, competitive skills is critical. However, so too is the need to raise an enlightened citizenry with cross-cultural experience and cultural awareness competency, with a broad worldview and global perspectives. These requirements are critical to understanding the challenges and opportunities of scholarly activity in a pluralistic global environment and positioning ourselves to capitalize upon them. Scholars with cross-cultural experience and competency are empowered to adapt and work collaboratively, nationally and globally, with scholars of different races, geopolitical, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds. Development of effective strategies to transform science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) departments for inclusion and to broaden the participation in STEM across cultures, socioeconomic standing, race, and gender in higher education has been a dominant topic of pedagogical interest of national priority in the last several decades. However, success in these endeavors is achievable only through systemic change and a cultural shift to address the underlying root causes of socioeconomic disparity, gender, and racial disparities and a paucity of cultural awareness among all educational stakeholders. STEM departments can only be truly transformed for inclusion through the development of sensitive, creative, and student-engaging curricula and targeted recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities in STEM. Formation of well-coordinated alliances spanning educational sectors, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and community engagement and outreach are also critical to promoting inclusive and broad participation in STEM education.

The first section of the chapter gives an introduction to various challenges, obstacles, and hindrances that prevent a successful transformation of K–12 science education as well as STEM departments in higher education for inclusion. The second section discusses historical perspectives of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith (UAFS) – the institutional profile, missions, and visions of UAFS as a regional university. Policies and strategies for addressing the socioeconomic disparity, faculty gender, and racial disparities and cultural competency awareness at UAFS are also highlighted in this section. Other approaches including targeted efforts to recruit and retain underrepresented minority students, provision of financial assistance for students from low-income families, and a creative “Math-up” curriculum innovation to promote inclusive and broad participation in STEM at UAFS are highlighted in the latter section of the chapter. Formation of alliances between UAFS, local K–12 school districts, and governmental and non-governmental agencies to promote broad participation in STEM at UAFS are discussed. The last section of the chapter provides recommendations for adaptation and sustainability of strategies and efforts aimed at transforming national STEM departments for inclusion.



Fakayode, S.O., Davis, J.J., Yu, L., Meikle, P.A., Darbeau, R. and Hale, G. (2019), "Transforming STEM Departments for Inclusion: Creative Innovation, Challenges, Adaptation, and Sustainability at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith", Broadening Participation in STEM (Diversity in Higher Education, Vol. 22), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 73-105.



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