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SWE’s Researcher Contributions to National Conversations Convening’s Held by NASA, NSF, and Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM

To advocate for the advancement of the engineering field, SWE’s Senior Manager of Research, Roberta Rincon, has actively engaged with other researchers around conversations to increase the participation of women in STEM.

A Day in the Life of An Aerospace Engineer

SWE was invited to attend two different NSF-funded events in Washington, DC, in early 2020. Both events were aimed at strengthening broadening participation in STEM. As the Senior Manager of Research, I had the privilege of representing SWE. I want to share a few items that I learned as a result of my attendance that I believe are of interest to a number of our SWE members.

NASA and NSF INCLUDES Convening

NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement partnered with the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) initiative to host a convening around broadening participation through collaboration, specifically around diversifying the engineering workforce. NASA and NSF invited organizations and institutions committed to broadening participation in engineering to encourage the development of new and diverse coalitions.SWE’s Researcher Contributions to National Conversations Convening's Held by NASA, NSF, and Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM

NSF INCLUDES is an initiative intended to “catalyze the STEM enterprise to collaboratively work for inclusive change, which will result in a STEM workforce that reflects the population of the Nation.” The initiative is complex, composed of launch pilots, alliances, coordination hubs, and various projects that support the development of diverse STEM talent. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage researchers and organizations to work together towards common goals rather than in silos.

There were a number of minority-serving institutions present, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and Tribal Colleges as well as professional engineering societies (like SWE), nonprofit STEM organizations, and government agencies. We heard from NSF program directors about the NSF INCLUDES initiative as well as funding opportunities for activities aimed at broadening participation in STEM. France Córdova, the NSF Director, and Mike Kincaid, Associate Administrator for the Office of STEM Engagement at NASA, provided welcoming remarks.

For those SWE members interested in efforts and programs to increase diversity in STEM, you may find the following resources useful:

  • NASA offers the Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Capability Gateway to help you find innovative and diverse academic collaborators, particularly for those interested in teaming opportunities and competitive federal awards.
  • NASA STEM Engagement offers tools and programs for youth and educators to learn about STEM, including podcasts, ebooks, project funding opportunities, professional development for educators, and student competitions. There is even information about how to become a NASA intern, which is pretty darn cool.
  • Check out the recently released report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: Minority Serving Institutions: America’s Underutilized Resource for Strengthening the STEM Workforce. The report focuses on the important role that MSIs serve in diversifying the STEM workforce. It’s free to download.
  • Join the NSF INCLUDES Network! The Network is open to anyone interested in improving diversity and inclusion in STEM. By joining, you will be able to learn and share best practices in broadening participation in STEM.

Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM

SWE was invited to attend a Professional Societies Working Group session during the ERN Conference. The ERN Conference highlights the research of undergraduate and graduate students who participate in specific NSF-funded programs, including underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities. During the conference, I had the opportunity to interact with a number of undergraduate and graduate students. There were a number of students who had little or no knowledge of SWE, so it was a wonderful opportunity to share some of the great activities and support our organization provides to its members.

Over 20 professional STEM societies and associations were represented during the working group session, from national organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) to smaller organizations like the Association of Women in Forensic Science (AWIFS) and BlackcomputeHER.

SWE’s Researcher Contributions to National Conversations Convening's Held by NASA, NSF, and Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM

Each organization had the opportunity to introduce themselves to the group with a brief presentation highlighting some of their best practices and sharing areas where they sought collaborators. For SWE, I highlighted our annual conference, Invent It. Build It., and the Academic Leadership for Women in Engineering programs. In alignment with our strategic plan, I indicated that SWE seeks collaborators around two areas of interest: Community college students and women of color in engineering. The event was a wonderful opportunity to network with other professional societies interested in working together to diversify the STEM professions.

I very much appreciated the opportunity to interact with representatives from a variety of different societies and associations, and I am optimistic that we can find areas of shared interest to tackle together. It is always a privilege to represent SWE at such events!

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