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Project Title:The UNO STEM Priority Strategic Planning InitiativeInstitution Name:University of Nebraska at Omaha Innovation Category:Strategic Planning Project Director:Dr. Neal Grandgenett, Haddix Community Chair of STEM EducationContact Information:(402) 554-2690, ngrandgenett@unomaha.eduWebsite:http://www.unomaha.edu/stem
Project Description:The UNO STEM Priority Strategic Planning Initiative followed the Chancellor’s designation of STEM as one of five campus priorities. Faculty leaders created a STEM Leadership Team that collaboratively established a STEM strategic plan with the direct input of over 50 faculty members and nearly 60 members of the community, including K12 educators, business, and community colleges. The initiative has had impacts across the campus, including interdisciplinary grants, new pathways for teacher certification, an enhanced use of Inquiry-Based Learning, increased outreach, academic learning communities, and four externally funded leadership positions, called STEM Community Chairs, that each lead STEM initiatives. 

The UNO STEM Priority has four strategic goals that are detailed within a strategic plan that includes detailed objectives, timelines and measurements that guide campus efforts. These four goals are related to teaching, research, service and infrastructure.

  • The teaching goal seeks to bring increased student engagement into STEM classrooms, and to improve recruitment, retention, and graduation.
  • The research goal seeks to expand faculty discipline-based education research to investigate innovations.
  • The service goal seeks to build community partnerships for enhanced outreach.
  • The general infrastructure goal seeks to build interdisciplinary efforts with increased faculty leadership, administrative support, and reviews of data.  
Outcomes:Improved STEM outcomes have aligned with each of the four strategic goals. For example, in teaching, inquiry-based calculus classes have reduced student DWF rates (students who receive a "D", "F", or withdraw) from 42.2% to 20.3% in that course. Discipline-based education research efforts have expanded faculty participation in interdisciplinary grant writing by nearly 50% and the STEM leadership committee now writes letters of support for requesting faculty. STEM outreach events have nearly doubled, and a new staff position, a STEM Outreach Coordinator, was added. The infrastructure goal includes efforts to work toward the establishment of a STEM Center and has been successful in adding four externally-funded Community Chairs. 
Challenges/Problems Encountered:Challenges associated with the STEM Priority have involved breaking down “turf” perceptions to allow for the emergence of a common vision. This common vision was eventually established by undertaking a year-long strategic planning effort that created detailed goals, objectives, tasks, current status summaries, immediate actions and success indicators. A professional moderator helped in the conversation. It was also challenging to make sure that everyone felt included, such as faculty outside of the STEM disciplines and numerous community partners. This was accomplished through a series of small and large group meetings, and ongoing plan refinements using focused stakeholder input. 
Evaluation Approach:Formative evaluation of the STEM Priority is the responsibility of a sixteen-member faculty leadership team, along with a four member administrative team that includes three college Deans and one Associate Vice Chancellor (Research). Annual reports are now being initiated that include matrices detailing progress on each objective, using indicators from the STEM Strategic Plan.  A technical writer and an evaluation specialist are helping to prepare the annual report documents and community stakeholders are providing input. 
Potential for Replication:Replication of the STEM Priority Strategic Planning Initiative on other campuses should be possible. Replication is already occurring locally in several area school districts, community colleges, and by community groups such as the Omaha Chamber of Commerce. For strong replications, it would seem important to engage a professional moderator, technical writer, and at least several strong faculty leaders, while supporting at least a year of focused conversation and periodic document refinements.   
Additional Resources:

Spotlight Videoclip of STEM Education at UNO        

Nebraska Loves Public Schools Videoclip (UNO STEM: Robotics Take Over the Classroom)

CEO-to-CEO Contact:John Christensen , Chancellorjohnchristensen@unomaha.edu
(402) 554-2312
Date Published: Monday, March 24, 2014