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ILSPRA Research Publications


The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to impact every industry and test problem-solving capabilities and innovation across the board; education is no exception. As institutions continue to adapt to the impacts of the current public health crisis, colleges and universities are also navigating federal policy prompted by the pandemic. Literature has shown the positive influence of organizations, such as the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP), and, we argue that they can take a more active intermediary approach, that of an Organizational Buffer, to best support their students during times of uncertainty. Current research highlights the disconnect between STEM education and policy, as well as how the pandemic is disproportionately impacting communities of color. The pervasiveness of whiteness within educational policy and the negative impacts of unequal distribution of resources on students of color in STEM highlight the need to center race in a theoretical framework and policy. The purpose of this study was to understand the policy and communication responses to the pandemic as they pertained to supporting student success in STEM. Using the Theory of Racialized Organizations, which is a qualitative case study approach that leverages diffractive readings, was implemented to understand whether educational policy and communication responses during this time have or perpetuated inequitable systems. Guided by the research question, in what ways do pandemic policies and communications bolster the success of underrepresented minoritized students (URM) majoring in STEM, our study found four versions of policymaking (i.e., Performative, Picking Winners and Losers, Stay in your Lane, and Time Burden) that emerged and did not support URM STEM students equitably and consistently. Based on these findings, we present implications for institutional responses, LSAMP-alliance support, and future research.

There is inconclusive evidence on the ability of scientific research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to scale-up from one context to another and ultimately become institutionalized. The dearth of evidence draws focus on how organizations change and evolve or the process of organizational learning. We designed this systematic review of the literature to uncover to what extent and how organizational theory has been leveraged within STEM interventions or as a research tool to inform the policies and practices of STEM education organizations. Unlike previous reviews, we explicitly focused on how organizational learning informs cultural transformation toward the success of racially and ethnically underrepresented minority (URM) students in STEM. The research question was: How has organizational theory and learning informed the potential for STEM education to center the success of URM students? Our results reveal that STEM entities that did not leverage organizational theory consistently fell into either the “decision trap” identified by Langely et al. created by ignoring temporal structures or deemed the innovation threatening, as Kezar suggested. We conclude with practical recommendations for the design of STEM education interventions.


This study investigated how institutional leaders within an alliance navigate and use their agency to cultivate organizational change to support the success of underrepresented racial minority (URM) science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students. As part of this study, we partnered with the Illinois Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (ILSAMP), a signature program of the National Science Foundation (NSF), to explore our research question. The phenomenon of interest is the institutional leaders’ perceptions of their agency and their organization’s efforts to engage in the Alliance and support URM STEM student success through the various initiatives. The research team conducted 20 semi-structured interviews with institutional leaders and faculty at 11 public and private institutions as part of the STEM alliance. We utilized Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six-phased thematic analysis to identify patterns of meaning within the data that respond to the research question. Findings revealed a leadership perspective that frames approaches to STEM initiatives becoming a part of an institution’s fabric. The contribution of this study relates to the illumination of the tension between institutional leaders' agency to make change sustainable versus structural and leadership networks inhibiting STEM success efforts.

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