Faculty Group to Study Organizational Success of Eureka! Program

girls working together looking at computer screenFive faculty members in the colleges of Education, Natural Sciences and Social and Behavioral Sciences have received a two-year, $299,271 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the components of a successful multi-organizational partnership designed to promote girls’ participation in higher education and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The group hopes the study will contribute fundamental research in understanding the infrastructure for effective partnerships, communication and collaboration.

Ezekiel Kimball, education; Nilanjana Dasgupta, psychological and brain sciences; Mark Pachucki, sociology; Ryan Wells, education; and Chrystal George Mwangi, education, developed the project in response to an NSF call for proposals that would generate new findings relevant to the NSF’s Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) program.

Called “Examining Collective Impact in a Community-University Partnership to Broaden Girls’ Participation in Science from Middle School to High School Graduation,” the project will focus on “the remarkable success” of the Eureka! partnership between Girls Inc. of Holyoke, UMass Amherst, and local schools in Holyoke, Chicopee and Springfield.

The faculty wrote in their grant proposal: “We know that broadening STEM participation for minoritized and underrepresented populations is critical both to producing a diverse STEM workforce and also to ensuring that people have equitable access to STEM career pathways. We also know that efforts to broaden STEM participation should be both programmatically effective and economically sustainable. … The Eureka! partnership directed by Girls Inc. of Holyoke, and with the participation of UMass Amherst and other community partners, has accomplished both of these objectives.

“By determining the organizational and communication structures that have resulted in a highly effective yet comparatively affordable intervention to broaden participation, we hope to produce transferable lessons that can be used in future partnerships. “

The Eureka! program supports incoming cohorts of 30 girls during a five-year immersive STEM program that takes place on the UMass Amherst campus, along with external internships and through their college application process. The faculty project will examine “the exceptional work and commitment of the staff at Girls Inc. of Holyoke and Girls Inc.’s national leadership; the students, staff, and faculty at UMass Amherst who have helped shape the program’s educational offerings; and a host of community partners integral to every facet of the Eureka program—ranging from recruitment to externship placements to the college search process.”

The researchers came together through the activities of the new Institute of Diversity Sciences, which brings together faculty and students across colleges and schools whose research focuses on human diversity or disparities from multiple scientific angles.