University of Michigan Week of SEISMIC

By Nita Tarchinski, edited by Ashley Atkinson

April Showers Bring May in Michigan

University of Michigan Week of SEISMIC, May 2-6, 2022

We’re not done yet! The fourth Week of SEISMIC brought collaborators to Ann Arbor, MI for a full week of activities. Eric Bell, Heather Rypkema, Nicholas Young, Becky Matz, and Cait Hayward started us off with a hybrid presentation onUsing equity data to inform campus change“, which explored the UM Assessment Toolkit Initiative’s role in promoting institutional change.

As Measurement project team members started to arrive in town that evening, we met up at Jolly Pumpkin for an informal and savory dinner. A few members even made the walk to Michigan Stadium for a view of the Block M.



With an early start on Tuesday, the Measurement team got right to work discussing revisions to their research design for a SEISMIC-wide parallel analysis project. Team members brainstormed new research questions, considered the possibilities and drawbacks of different analysis approaches, and worked to refine their population of study.

At midday we moved to the Michigan League for a presentation by Sara Brownell on “Creating more inclusive STEM learning environments for LGBTQ+ individuals”. Sara shared findings from several of her research studies to help attendees understand how active learning spaces and instructional strategies can better support LGBTQ+ students.

The Measurement team continued their discussions in the afternoon and ended the evening at Black Pearl for dinner.


As we reached the halfway point of our week, the Measurement team wrapped up conversations and made a plan for next steps. With a journal venue in mind, an established population of study, and clear research questions, the next step is to refine the analysis code.


Meanwhile, the Enriching Scholarship conference at UM was just starting, and several SEISMIC members were lined up to present. Perry Samson presented on the SEISMIC CLUEs project, Susan Cheng, Elizabeth Levesque, and collaborators shared on “Teaching the Whole Student – How to Create a Supportive Classroom Climate for Students and Instructors using Wellness Check-ins,” and Vanessa Woods, Mike Wilton, Sara Brownell, and Nita Tarchinski gave an overview of SEISMIC and some of our different classroom innovations instructors can use.

As the Measurement Team was wrapping up its meetings and the Constructs project team members were arriving in Ann Arbor, we made our way to the Michigan League once more for a launch of our SEISMIC Summer Book – Teaching to Transgress, and a lively game of SEISMIC Trivia. Lucky individuals went home with new SEISMIC swag and (we hope) a better understanding of the collaboration and their role in it.

A trip to Ann Arbor is not complete without a visit to Zingerman’s Delicatessen and Blank Slate Creamery, so on we went.



The next day members from the Constructs Working Group met to reflect on successes of the group and where to go from here. It was heartening to hear about all of the work of the group and realize the impact this group has made on the collaboration and our goals for STEM education.

Ginger Shultz led us into the afternoon with a talk on “Capturing the Collaborative Design of Culturally Relevant Inquiry Activities”, showing us how to create a more equitable experience for students by making cultural connections to academic content and activating the resources students bring to the classroom.

The Constructs Frameworks Project team gathered in the afternoon to review the team’s progress on the Critical Race Theory draft primer and to sign up to write new primers on other critical theories. Café Zola hosted us for a delightful Constructs dinner that night where we savored seasoned fries, tangy calamari, fresh meats and cheeses, and plenty more.

As we neared the end of the week SEISMIC members participated in a special tour of the new UM Central Campus Classroom Building, taking in the impressive classroom in the round, active learning classrooms, and 572-person auditorium.

Our final event was a presentation by Nikeetha Farfan D’Souza on “Remembering and Reclaiming the “Critical” in the Age of Anti-CRT America: What Does “Critical” Mean and Why is this Important for DEI in STEM Higher Education Now?“, prompting thoughtful discussions on critical theories and doing critical work.

And with that, the UM Week of SEISMIC came to an end. We’ll see you in two weeks for the final Week of SEISMIC of the spring!



Nita Tarchinski

Nita Tarchinski is the Project Manager for the Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses (SEISMIC) Collaboration, coordinating multi-institutional and multidisciplinary research and teaching projects focused on making introductory STEM courses more equitable and inclusive.

Ashley Atkinson

Ashley Atkinson is a Program Assistant for SEISMIC Central, lending a hand to whichever projects need support. Her primary projects include the SEISMIC website, making graphics for various efforts, and editing a podcast. As an alum from Michigan State University, Ashley is passionate about equity and inclusion in STEM alongside science communication.





Purdue Week of SEISMIC

By Nita Tarchinski, edited by Ashley Atkinson

Our Story Continues in Lively West Lafayette

Purdue University Week of SEISMIC, April 4-8, 2022

With barely 2 weeks to catch our breath, SEISMIC came together again for the 2nd Week of SEISMIC! And this time, we were looking at 5 days jam-packed with events. Whew!

Purdue’s Week of SEISMIC emphasized several types of collaborative activities. We began with a hybrid gathering of representatives from teaching and learning centers across SEISMIC institutions. Out of town participants arrived Sunday night at the beautifully renovated Purdue Memorial Union. Monday began with a viewing of an IMPACT session. IMPACT stands for Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation. IMPACT has been running since 2011 and is a great example of course transformation. SEISMIC attendees appreciated the opportunity to see it in action!

In the afternoon we had our official gathering in the form of a hybrid brainstorming session. Representatives from 9 teaching centers, including from several Purdue campuses, shared insights on a few key questions.


  1. How do you currently support instructors (STEM in particular) to implement classroom innovations and create environments that are student-centered? If you are an instructor, how have you been supported by teaching and learning staff?
  2. How do we support instructors with less institutional power (lecturers, non-tenure track faculty, instructors of color) who may not always have the agency to implement innovations?
  3. How might lessons learned from these approaches be used to leverage or deepen collaborations between SEISMIC and teaching centers? 

The hybrid format worked impressively well, with in-person and virtual attendees able to interact and learn from each other. These discussions resulted in over 90 ideas being posted on a Jamboard, with a few notable themes on the roles of our Teaching and Learning colleagues:

  • Provide multiple points of entry for faculty and instructors to receive support, such as individual consultations, provision of feedback, workshops, reading groups, classroom observations, peer review, and intentional course and curriculum design and redesign.
  • Find ways and encourage instructors to create student-centered environments that require minimal time-investment, but have the potential to lead to time savings in the instructional process.
  • Foster collaboration among instructors through informal learning communities and communities of practice supported by the faculty center but led by instructors, or through formal faculty learning communities (FLC) embedded in professional development programs or course/curriculum redesign programs, some of which are very large and multi-year (e.g. Foundational Course Initiative at Michigan and IMPACT at Purdue).

We were happy to hear at the end of this event there was clear interest from attendees to more formally connect through SEISMIC. We are considering the Implementing Change Working Group as a possible home for the SEISMIC Teaching and Learning Community, which will continue to share resources and ideas through this collaboration.

We wrapped up Day 1 with food and drinks in the Purdue Memorial Union’s new BoilerUp Bar and 8Eleven Bistro. Smiles all around!

Day 2 continued the Teaching and Learning theme with another IMPACT session available for attending in-person or viewing online followed by Lightning Talks on Course Innovations. Nine presenters shared classroom innovations they have tried, inspiring attendees on activities they could do in their classes.

As we wrapped up our Teaching and Learning centered events, our Measurement team members started to arrive in West Lafayette. We met up in the evening at Bru Burger for absolutely delicious burgers, fries, and homemade sauces


Our Measurement conversations kicked off on Wednesday with an interactive session led by Emily Bonem on challenges and potential solutions related to data access and structures across SEISMIC. Attendees brainstormed in teams and then shared with the whole group. Some ideas shared included

  • Addressing complex and ill-defined structures by setting local and group norms
  • Creating a safe place in order to address fear of failure and establish trust
  • Creating more documentation in order to increase accessibility to data sources

From there we did a gallery walk, adding our own ideas for how to address the common problems faced at our institutions. Solutions shared included

  • Using SEISMIC as an organization to nudge administrators about supporting equity research
  • Brainstorming more often so that solutions can be proposed and explored
  • Participating in professional development / engaging in dialogue to increase confidence

Meaghan Pearson kept our energy up with her presentation, “Integrating QuantCrit Approaches to Stem Equity Work” which provided key insights from her recently published SEISMIC paper, “Integrating Critical Approaches into Quantitative STEM Equity Work” and was followed by lively discussion with the audience.

Tensions ran high during Nita Tarchinski’s presentation on “Opportunities to Engage with the  SEISMIC Collaboration” as both in-person and virtual participants vied to win SEISMIC swag items for knowing the most about the collaboration.



After a hearty lunch and walk around campus, we returned to the Purdue Memorial Union for an engaging presentation by W. Carson Byrd on his recently published book, Behind the Diversity Numbers: Achieving Racial Equity on Campus. Lucky in-person participants received the book and got it signed by the author!

Next up we had a “Future of Learning” presentation facilitated by Ed Berger and Jenna Rickus. Participants learned about innovative residential learning, focusing on when living and learning merge.

We wrapped up the afternoon discussing findings and recommendations shared by Shaun Harper at an earlier event, the Purdue Maximizing Student Potential conference.  Finally, we returned once more to 8Eleven Bistro for a scrumptious dinner with colleagues. It was wonderful to meet so many new people in-person.




Promoting Equity and Justice Through Pedagogical Partnership

Day 4 continued the data conversations and transitioned us to questions on how to use institutional data at different levels of the university for different types of change. Anne Weiss, the assistant director of the IDAtA project, shared about Purdue’s plans for using a sense of belonging instrument to transform institutional data into a rich body of strategic intelligence that is accessible, well-defined and useful to decision-makers at all levels of the organization.

Susan Cheng and Heather Rypkema facilitated a workshop on “Questioning Classroom Routines to Develop Equity-Minded Practice”, helping instructors to see equity-minded ways classroom data about students can be measured, interpreted, and used. Then, Linda Adler-Kassner and Marco Molinaro presented for Purdue administrators on “Using DEI Data Wisely” They shared tools for cultivating one’s message, including setting up a graphic of communication strategies to tailor one’s message to their audience, while staying in line with one’s personal values.

On the final day Alison Cook-Sather gave the keynote presentation on her book, “Promoting Equity and Justice through Pedagogical Partnerships“. Alison, along with student partners from Bryn Mawr, consulted with faculty at Purdue on how faculty can work together to create opportunities for students from underrepresented and equity-seeking groups to collaborate with faculty and staff to revise and reinvent pedagogies, assessments, and course designs, positioning equity and justice as core educational aims.

Purdue is running a book group on this book this spring, led by Daniel Guberman. The first meeting took place on Day 5 of the Purdue Week of SEISMIC, and in-person participants received a copy of the book as well.

The jam-packed Purdue Week of SEISMIC came to a close on Friday, April 8 after a dinner with the keynote speaker. What a week.

Up next, Santa Barbara!



Nita Tarchinski

Nita Tarchinski is the Project Manager for the Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses (SEISMIC) Collaboration, coordinating multi-institutional and multidisciplinary research and teaching projects focused on making introductory STEM courses more equitable and inclusive.

Ashley Atkinson

Ashley Atkinson is a Program Assistant for SEISMIC Central, lending a hand to whichever projects need support. Her primary projects include the SEISMIC website, making graphics for various efforts, and editing a podcast. As an alum from Michigan State University, Ashley is passionate about equity and inclusion in STEM alongside science communication.





UC Santa Barbara Week of SEISMIC

By Nita Tarchinski, edited by Ashley Atkinson


We Found the Big Plants and Big Smiles

University of California Santa Barbara Week of SEISMIC, April 18-22, 2022

And here we go again! The UCSB Week of SEISMIC kicked off on Monday with a meeting to formally connect SEISMIC with the UCSB Instructional Development Team. They discussed ways current SEISMIC Experiments projects could integrate with the work of the Instructional Developers. Following this, the core UCSB SEISMIC team got together to discuss how to expand involvement in SEISMIC at UCSB.




Several ideas were shared, including starting a UCSB-SEISMIC Seminar Series that meets 3 times per quarter. Members proposed that these seminars could consist of local talks, workshops, visitors, a coffee hour, and a journal club. This would provide a recurring opportunity for UCSB members to engage as a SEISMIC community.

Tuesday launched the work of the Access to Practice project team. The goal – get chemistry faculty at UCSB on board with using peer-reviewed writing activities in their courses. Laura Brown was a phenomenal advocate for this effort, having several success stories to share regarding her own experiences reforming introductory chemistry. After some informal conversations over lunch, Laura Brown, Vanessa Woods, and Maggie Safronova teamed up for an Access to Practice Roundtable conversation, providing the opportunity for interested instructors to learn about the project and how it could work in their contexts. The conversations continued over chips and guac at Carlito’s in the evening.

Meanwhile, the University of Michigan ECoach team was making their way to Santa Barbara. They arrived in time for a tasty meal at Finney’s Crafthouse, preceded by a walk along the pier at sunset.


The next day we were full steam ahead on consultations about new ECoach programs at UCSB. The ECoach team met with the UCSB Teaching and Learning team, including staff in Instructional Development and the Center for Innovative Teaching, Research, and Learning (CITRAL), to devise a plan for the development and implementation of a new ECoach for the Fall 2022 Intro Biology Cohort. This fall, students in two biology departments — MCDB  and EEMB — will receive tailored messaging from Intro Bio Coordinators in an effort to help students successfully navigate the introductory Biology sequence. A scenic drive into the mountains and dinner at Flor de Maíz capped off the evening.


The next day brought the SEISMIC Scholars and Office Hours project teams to campus. The SEISMIC Scholars organizing team, consisting of Vanessa Woods, Mike Wilton, Anna James, Sabrina Solanki, Nita Tarchinski, and Karen Vega Vega, took a deep dive into planning for the 2022 SEISMIC Scholars program. After, we hosted a panel discussion for UCSB students, staff, and faculty to learn more about the SEISMIC Scholars experience from two past Scholars – Karen Vega Vega and Angela Torres. Having both worked on the Office Hours project last summer, Karen and Angela shared two perspectives on how a student can engage with the program and have their own distinct research topic.

After, the Office Hours project team met to get organized and prepare for the next day’s activities.

We closed out the afternoon with a stunning reception on the roof of the Mosher Alumni House.

SEISMIC Project Manager Nita Tarchinski hosted a rousing game of SEISMIC Trivia, resulting in several attendees leaving with some new SEISMIC swag.

The evening wrapped up with a fantastic dinner at The Leta Hotel for the Office Hours team. While some had to leave early, those who stayed until the end were rewarded with decadent desserts and a rainy drive home.

On the final day of the week, the Office Hours project team engaged in a full-day meeting to move their research agenda forward, including discussions on possible grant opportunities and organizing publication goals.

And there you have it. The third Week of SEISMIC brought on another round of productive meetings, engaging presentations, good food, and big smiles.


Nita Tarchinski

Nita Tarchinski is the Project Manager for the Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses (SEISMIC) Collaboration, coordinating multi-institutional and multidisciplinary research and teaching projects focused on making introductory STEM courses more equitable and inclusive.

Ashley Atkinson

Ashley Atkinson is a Program Assistant for SEISMIC Central, lending a hand to whichever projects need support. Her primary projects include the SEISMIC website, making graphics for various efforts, and editing a podcast. As an alum from Michigan State University, Ashley is passionate about equity and inclusion in STEM alongside science communication.






Participating in SEISMIC

By Yunseo Cho, edited by Ashley Atkinson and Nita Tarchinski


SEISMIC is comprised of participants from ten partner institutions across the United States, as well as active external members and interested observers outside of the partner institutions. Our size is commendable, and it allows us as a collaborative to have a greater scope and larger audiences in mind during our work. It is even more incredible to think of the number of SEISMIC participants when one considers the fact that SEISMIC participation is volunteer-based. 

However, due to its volunteer-based nature, we in SEISMIC Central frequently hear that SEISMIC members often feel guilty that they are not able to put as much time towards SEISMIC as they would like. There is almost always a lot going on within the collaborative (e.g., emails, meetings, events, travel opportunities), leaving members to feel as if they are not keeping up with everything that SEISMIC has to offer. As a result, many SEISMIC members seem to believe that they are not as involved as they should be or want to be, because they assume that other participants are more active than they are.

Given this common belief throughout the collaboration, it is necessary for us to point out that no matter what one’s type of participation is, all types of participation are fine.  In addition to this, whether or not one is a part of a SEISMIC institution does not invalidate their contributions to and participation in SEISMIC. Below we share four common ways people participate in this collaboration.

The first type of participation, “Breaking News,” is the kind of participation that one would partake in if they are curious to know what is happening with SEISMIC, but they do not wish to be directly involved. Participants in this category receive monthly newsletters, and many also follow SEISMIC on Twitter for updates.

The second type of participation, “Aftershock,” best describes members of SEISMIC who are interested in activities and are also affiliated with one of the SEISMIC member institutions. Members in this category are able to attend SEISMIC speaker visits on their campus, can help coordinate these visits, and can also travel to other institutions as SEISMIC speakers.

Stephanie Walker, the Associate Director of the Science Learning Center at the University of Michigan, is one SEISMIC member whose participation aligns with this category. “I participate in SEISMIC through attending Speaker Events, engaging in the Annual Meetings, connecting at the campus meet up opportunities, and sharing the newsletter information with my department. As a staff member, I find it encouraging to learn about all of the ways faculty are working to make success in introductory STEM courses more equitable. I find my engagement in SEISMIC sparking new ideas to apply to my co-curricular work with students.”

George Rehrey, an Adjunct Instructor at Indiana University, says, “My participation in SEISMIC has truly advanced my understanding of how important and complicated issues of diversity, equity and inclusion are in higher education today. This has been especially true when it comes to issues of belongingness and how we might be able to mitigate them to help more students succeed in STEM.”

Stephanie Walker

George Rehrey

Earthquake” is the third type of participation. SEISMIC members in this type of participation are those who want to influence the direction of the Working Groups. They are involved in presenting the progress of their Working Group at conferences and speaker visits, attending Working Group meetings, influencing the direction of potential grant proposals, and overall, contributing to the vision and goals of the Working Group.

Lastly, “Epicenter” is the fourth type of SEISMIC participation. This type of participation is for those who want to be as involved as possible.  Members in the “Epicenter” category are project team members and thus share responsibility for the progress of specific projects. They are encouraged to write grant proposals as needed to fund specific projects; other ways they can contribute are opening up their classroom to a study, running analysis code, planning the experimental design, writing up results, and many other activities.

Laura Brown

Natasha Turman

Laura Brown, Senior Lecturer at Indiana University, says, “I teach organic chemistry at Indiana University, and I am interested in identifying and implementing evidence-based interventions that lead to more equitable and inclusive classrooms. I do not have a background in chemical education, but through SEISMIC I was able to team up with educational researchers and work with them towards this goal.”

Natasha Turman, the Director of the Women in Science and Engineering Residence Program (WISE RP) at the University of Michigan, says her SEISMIC participation looks like, “co-leading a project group, supporting student scholars, facilitating group meetings, reviewing literature, staying current on STEM education needs through a critical lens.”

These four types of participation listed above only serve as examples— SEISMIC members may well be at the boundary of two types or participate in a way that might not entirely fit with any of these categories. We encourage you to think about participation in SEISMIC as you might think about a buffet. SEISMIC is the restaurant, providing space, chairs, and company for your feast. Our activities are the dishes available on the buffet table. One chooses what works for them based on their time, interests, and levels of effort they are able to commit.  

If you would like to choose more dishes, then here are some resources to start looking: 


Yunseo Cho

Yunseo Cho served as a Program Assistant for SEISMIC Central in 2021, playing a key role in managing the SEISMIC website, event planning, and preparing promotional materials for the collaboration.

Ashley Atkinson

Ashley Atkinson is a Program Assistant for SEISMIC Central, lending a hand to whichever projects need support. Her primary projects include the SEISMIC website, making graphics for various efforts, and editing a podcast. As an alum from Michigan State University, Ashley is passionate about equity and inclusion in STEM alongside science communication.


Nita Tarchinski

Nita Tarchinski is the Project Manager for the Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses (SEISMIC) Collaboration, coordinating multi-institutional and multidisciplinary research and teaching projects focused on making introductory STEM courses more equitable and inclusive.





By Nita Tarchinski, edited by Ashley Atkinson

Welcome to Sunny Skies and SEISMIC Times

University of California Irvine Week of SEISMIC, March 14-16, 2022


And we’re back! This March we launched our first Week of SEISMIC, hosted by the University of California Irvine. It was a blast! For the first time in several years, SEISMIC members from across the U.S. joined together in one geographic location for 3 days of intense ~seismic~ activity.

Many of us arrived Sunday night and met up for good food and drinks (shout out to Bosscat and CURRENT Coastal Cuisine), some of us seeing each other for the first time ever! Monday heralded in-person meetings for our Measurement Working Group attendees. The goal – refine parallel analysis plans, run code for each participating institution, and draft a manuscript. No big deal. 




Meanwhile, some of our SEISMIC administrative liaisons spent their time connecting with UC Irvine campus leadership, sharing the importance of parallel data analysis and the tips and tricks for optimizing institutional data structures. Tim McKay, Marco Molinaro, and Nita Tarchinski, facilitated by Brian Sato and Michael Dennin, connected with the UC Irvine STEM college and department deans to share the story of SEISMIC and pathways to collaborate with and learn from SEISMIC’s work. Nita Tarchinski shared “Opportunities to Engage with the SEISMIC Collaboration” accompanied by SEISMIC swag giveaways for audience members who answered questions about the collaboration correctly.





Dinner was a noisy affair at North Italia, accompanied by delectable desserts and charcuterie galore.

Day 2 promoted connections with students at UC Irvine who have been engaged in SEISMIC work. Past UC Irvine SEISMIC Scholars and Constructs Working Group undergraduate researchers got together for lunch with two of our SEISMIC Scholars Program Organizers, Sabrina Solanki and Nita Tarchinski. At the same time, past Measurement Fellows and graduate student researchers met up with the Measurement Fellows Organizers, Becky Matz and Stefano Fiorini. It was such a joy for the students and the organizers to finally meet in-person and share a meal.


Back at the Measurement meeting room, SEISMIC members were working hard to run the analysis code on their local institutional data and share the results. Kameryn compiled the data so we could see comparisons of results across institutions. We broke up the analysis with short periods of focused writing time on our manuscript. Marco Molinaro, Meryl Motika, and Nita Tarchinski shared initial ideas for an upcoming SEISMIC grant proposal and received constructive feedback from the Measurement team.

This evening we made it out to Newport Beach’s Fashion Island for amazing food at True Food Kitchen. We couldn’t leave without trying their ~transformative~ tea. We’re still not totally sure what was supposed to happen there…

We wrapped up the Week of SEISMIC with final discussions on the analysis and manuscript plans for the Measurement project. Chris Mead shared a presentation on “An examination of course grades and access to accommodations for students with disabilities in an online biology degree program”, followed by Becky Matz’s presentation on “Retaining some COVID-era flexibility in drop and pass/fail grading policies”.

With one final lunch to tide us over on our journeys home, the first ever Week of SEISMIC officially came to a close. What a whirlwind!






Nita Tarchinski

Nita Tarchinski is the Project Manager for the Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses (SEISMIC) Collaboration, coordinating multi-institutional and multidisciplinary research and teaching projects focused on making introductory STEM courses more equitable and inclusive.

Ashley Atkinson

Ashley Atkinson is a Program Assistant for SEISMIC Central, lending a hand to whichever projects need support. Her primary projects include the SEISMIC website, making graphics for various efforts, and editing a podcast. As an alum from Michigan State University, Ashley is passionate about equity and inclusion in STEM alongside science communication.






The Seeds of SEISMIC

By Nita Tarchinski and Tim McKay


The SEISMIC project emerged from a series of conversations between March and June of 2018 between Tim and Elizabeth Boylan, who was then the Sloan Foundation’s Director of Programs on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM Higher Education. The original focus is right there in the acronym: the Sloan Equity and Inclusion in SteM Introductory Courses project. The best short summary is probably provided by the original proposal’s cover sheet. The initial SEISMIC grant was awarded by the Sloan Foundation Board in November 2018.

When Nita started working as Project Manager at the end of 2018, the project really got off the ground. The first task was to recruit a set of partner institutions. To do this, we both spent the period from January to May 2019 visiting eight of our nine partner institutions, with our ninth visit in the fall. During these visits, we met with local leaders, ran SEISMIC workshops, and explored what everyone we talked to was most excited about doing within the SEISMIC community. This was one of the most fun and stimulating things we’ve ever done – an exciting sign for us that the SEISMIC idea was a good one.

At our first Summer Meeting, held in June 2019 in Ann Arbor, we gathered a handful of representatives from each institution, and launched a series of three working groups focused on Measurements of Equity and Inclusion, Classroom Experimentation, and Institutional Change. Meanwhile, the wider SEISMIC community began engaging with the collaboration through public presentations, book groups, campus events, and more. Among other things, these discussions led to the launch of a fourth ‘Constructs’ Working Group in February 2020.

Then in March, the COVID-19 pandemic began, unsettling and rearranging all of our plans. Remarkably, the shift to remote everything, with its ability to easily connect people on different campuses, led to a major expansion of interest in SEISMIC. After the murder of George Floyd, members of the Constructs Working Group helped our community come together to speak out and increase our commitment to action. Together, we released a “SEISMIC Statement on White Supremacist Violence and Anti-Blackness in the United States”, committing ourselves to antiracist action in policy, representation, research, and teaching and mentorship.

Since that launch, the SEISMIC community and its interests have grown in ways both anticipated and unexpected. Lately we’ve had a lot of discussions about what we hope to do together and how to do it best. As a contribution to these conversations, we thought it might be useful to remind everyone of where we started and recall the project’s original mission and goals. The two of us returned to the original SEISMIC proposal to remind ourselves of these “seeds of SEISMIC”, and wrote this blog post to convey what we found back to our members.

5 Key Points

To share the details, we’re posting the whole original proposal. To prevent you from needing to read it all, we’re providing pointers to places where you can find descriptions of some key elements. There are five main issues we thought it would be useful to address:

  1. The SEISMIC Mission
  2. Our Commitments to our Funder
  3. The Intent behind SEISMIC
  4. The Influence of Current Events
  5. The Role of the SEISMIC Task Force

We explain our vision for the next two years of the collaboration and hope that SEISMIC members continue to find intersections with their own goals and interests.

1. The SEISMIC Mission

From the beginning, SEISMIC’s main focus has been on transforming introductory STEM courses (Cover Sheet – Project Goal p. 1; Proposal p. 31). To accomplish this goal, we sought to establish a new standard for excellence for these introductory STEM courses that centered equity and inclusion (Proposal pp. 4, 19-20). We recognized that independent reform efforts were taking place on campuses across the country. SEISMIC was created to take advantage of these parallel efforts, drawing together a close, multifaceted collaboration of about 100 faculty, students, and staff in the STEM reform communities from a set of large research universities. Our ten SEISMIC institutions, each led by a local principal investigator, joined the collaboration because of this shared focus on introductory courses.

From the start, SEISMIC was envisioned as an open collaboration, inviting participation from everyone working on our member campuses. We aim to provide spaces within which individuals interested in equity and inclusion in STEM education can accomplish their own goals – doing things together that they find difficult to do alone. This has worked well, and in addition to our original goal of introductory course reform, we now have teams working on definitions of equity and inclusion, methods for encouraging and enabling reform, advancing critical approaches to our research methodologies, and more. This has been thrilling to see, and while the SEISMIC project retains a focus on introductory course reform, it is clear that the impact of the SEISMIC community will be much broader.

2. Our Commitments To Our Funder

When the grant was first awarded by the Sloan Foundation, we worked with Dr. Boylan to establish a few key metrics for success. You can read those here. In the proposal, we committed to conducting parallel analyses of institutional data across our SEISMIC institutions. We also agreed to conduct coordinated classroom interventions in STEM courses across the collaboration. Other commitments included building a community of people dedicated to equity and inclusion in STEM, seeking and obtaining additional funding to support our interventions and community, and setting a new standard for metrics of equity and inclusion as well as for research and development for STEM reform (Cover Sheet – Expected Products p. 1; Cover Sheet – Expected Outcomes p. 1; Proposal p. 14). More specifically, we planned to build tools to help researchers explore the individual student experience without relying on “simple characterizations of identity” (Proposal p. 52). In addition, we pledged to investigate new forms of student data, such as student performance and behavior in learning management systems, classroom observations, and student survey data (Proposal pp. 52-53).

While we have, as a community, expanded our activities well beyond these goals, these commitments remain essential for the central SEISMIC project. Much work remains to be done on them during the remaining years of the grant.

3. The Intent Behind SEISMIC

A key design goal of SEISMIC is to help participants interested in equity and inclusion do things together that they could never do alone. In many cases, this is work they’re already trying to do, often work that is central to their jobs and career ambitions. The advantage of joining the collaboration is having access to a community of people interested in related work and who might be interested to collaborate on specific projects. Thus, individuals will be able to do more in SEISMIC and have a broader impact than they might have had working alone (Proposal pp. 12-13). Additionally, SEISMIC Central provides organizational support to assist collaborative projects that align with the goals of SEISMIC. Creating this community and providing this organizational support is what we hoped to do and what we committed to the Sloan Foundation (Cover Sheet – Objectives p. 1; Proposal p. 18). We have been quite successful in these efforts, building a community of more than 600 individuals who connect with the collaboration through research projects, collaboration events, our monthly newsletters, and community activities such as our summer book groups.

In many ways, SEISMIC shares similarities with professional societies or conference communities. We are a group of people interested in similar topics who come together to talk about their work, form collaborations, and learn from each other. One benefit, for example, is that being part of SEISMIC can be seen as an advantage to funding agencies looking to support research projects with broader impacts (Proposal pp. 15-16). Several SEISMIC members have had success with their grant proposals after including details on the SEISMIC infrastructure.

4. The Influence of Current Events

It comes as no surprise that global events over the last two years have had an impact on SEISMIC. When SEISMIC began in 2019, we had a clear focus on transforming introductory STEM courses. When COVID-19 shut down our universities in March 2020, our introductory courses did transform: they shifted online, making instructors rethink many of their longstanding teaching practices. Inequities always present in the classroom began to be acknowledged in the new learning environment.  COVID-19 also highlighted many longstanding racial disparities.

After the murder of George Floyd, long-standing demands for racial justice reached a new peak. Conversations previously about DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) began to be about justice and antiracism. There were new calls for proposals related to racial equity. Academic movements on Twitter like #ShutDownSTEM, #ShutDownAcademia, and #Strike4BlackLives gained visibility.

Understandably, the focus of many SEISMIC members and higher education in general shifted. Members of the SEISMIC collaboration wrote a public statement on white supremacy and antiracism that was quickly endorsed by the project and organized a GoFundMe for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. We also coordinated book groups on antiracism and related topics and organized affinity groups for our BIPOC members, graduate students, and LGBTQIA members. We collaborated with the Accelerating Systemic Change Network (ASCN) to host events on structural equity and our organizations’ roles in promoting justice.

Many of these activities were possible because of the community we built around SEISMIC and the flexibility of our collaboration to adapt to the community’s goals. While we encourage our community members to follow their calls for disrupting institutional structures and taking bigger steps for racial equity in higher education, and will continue to provide organizational support for these efforts to the extent we are able, our commitment to SEISMIC’s first goal of transforming introductory STEM courses remains at the heart of what we do. This is one sphere of influence our collaboration has that can contribute to racial equity and institutional change.

5. The Role of the SEISMIC Task Force

In parallel with the global challenges of the last two years, SEISMIC has also been undergoing internal challenges related to the inclusivity of our collaboration. Members, particularly women of color and junior scholars, have been harmed in SEISMIC spaces. In light of this information and subsequent discussions, SEISMIC leadership established a Task Force to examine current collaboration structures and recommend new or revised structures to make our collaboration more equitable and inclusive. More information on the Task Force and the conversations leading up to its establishment are here. The SEISMIC Task Force will support our community as we continue to work towards our collective goals.

Call to Action

As we start our third academic year together, we are looking for SEISMIC members eager to join us as we refocus on the original goal for SEISMIC: to make measurements of equity in introductory STEM courses. This goal is what initially brought our institutions together, and we believe many in our community are ready to return to it in earnest. Looking to the next two years of SEISMIC (the time we have left before our current funding runs out), we hope to share models for using data to probe equity and inspire transformation in introductory STEM courses. We aim to share code to run these analyses on institutional data sets and to share the results of analyses run on our institutions. If you are interested in joining these efforts, please let us know here.

At the same time, we recognize that our community has grown beyond the initial participants interested in our original SEISMIC goal. Our equity measures are in many ways the “pilot project” of SEISMIC, not our only project. Our SEISMIC Task Force will help to strengthen our community over the next few months and open the door to additional projects of interest to our members. We are thrilled there are new directions for this community. Knowing the strong ties between us makes us hopeful for how the SEISMIC community can be sustained even if funding runs out. Whether you joined SEISMIC when we began in 2019 or more recently, there is space for you and your ideas in this collaboration. We hope to see you at our next event!




Nita Tarchinski

Nita Tarchinski is the Project Manager for the Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses (SEISMIC) Collaboration, coordinating multi-institutional and multidisciplinary research and teaching projects focused on making introductory STEM courses more equitable and inclusive.




Tim McKay, Ph.D.

Timothy A. McKay is the Director of the Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses (SEISMIC) Collaboration. He is also the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan. He is a data scientist, currently using data to understand and improve teaching and learning.



Building Structural Equity: What do our organizations need?

By Nita Kedharnath and Rachel Renbarger

Background and Context

ASCN and SEISMIC began collaborating in spring 2021 to understand how both organizations could synergistically support STEM education transformation. These collaborative meetings included the project coordinators of both organizations and the authors of this piece, Nita Kedharnath (project manager of SEISMIC) and Rachel Renbarger (research director of ASCN). We started meeting monthly to discuss equity challenges within our organizations, to problem-solve together, and to share resources to ensure equity progress continues for both our groups even while we target different priorities.

ASCN: The Accelerating Systemic Change Network (ASCN) is a community of change agents who create events, community, and resources to improve instruction in higher education. The network, sponsored by grant funders, is free for anyone to join.

In March, the murder of Asian American women working at spas in Atlanta amplified calls for anti-racist actions from institutions in the United States, including institutions of higher education. During one of our collaborative meetings, we asked each other what steps our respective organizations have taken toward racial justice. While both ASCN and SEISMIC had been working on diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice in STEM education since the organizations’ inceptions, this work was outward-facing and dedicated to helping university faculty members change their institutional settings. What were our organizations’ roles in tackling racial justice? What should we be doing as leaders? This lack of a clear path forward led us to ask these questions to experts who have been doing this reflective work within STEM higher education.

Panel Event

We first began to answer this question through examining the latest report by the American Council on Education (ACE) and talking to experts who were openly leading events centered around racial equity. The ACE report, titled Shared Equity Leadership: Making Equity Everyone’s Work, documented how multiple campus leaders promoted equity by convincing more campus stakeholders to be involved in making change on campus. This report encouraged us to examine our own personal reasons for doing this work, but we felt a disconnect since we were part of organizations rather than campuses. This led us to ask organizational leaders to speak on a panel and describe how they helped their organization do this reflective, internal work as well as the outward, external work.

This panel was titled, “Building Structural Equity: National Networks’ Role in Promoting Justice,” and included one of the writers of the ACE report, Dr. Elizabeth Holcombe, as well as Dr. Shirley Malcom, Director of the STEM Equity Achievement (SEA) Change initiative at the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Dr. Tabbye Chavous, Director for the National Center for Institutional Diversity; and Dr. Stanley Lo, President-Elect for the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER). From the panel event, we learned there were consistent challenges to doing this equity work within organizations such as limited mental and emotional bandwidth, difficulty convincing colleagues to join in the work, frustration with changes that are band-aids rather than systemic changes, and limited resources or support for doing justice-oriented work. However, we also learned what we could do to improve equity within organizations: collect data to understand challenges and successes, listen to those impacted by racial injustice, write grants to fund these initiatives, recognize the work already being done, and create groups of dedicated people to do the work together. These challenges and actions led us to work with our members to look internally to see what each organization should focus on for the next year.

After the Panel

Following the panel event, ASCN and SEISMIC co-hosted a working session for ASCN and SEISMIC members to gather and discuss how the lessons from the panel could be applied to our organizations. We asked members to consider what barriers stood in the way of our organizations’ promotion of justice and what actions they’d like us to take to address those barriers. Some barriers that were shared related to interactions between members – questions of power structures, institutional roles, and whether the ideas of STEM scholars or social science scholars were more valued in the organizations. Another key barrier was the lack of a clear vision for the organizations that centered equity and justice. The fact that most of our members are not paid to do the work of our organizations presented another challenge for our organizations’ ability to act. For actions we could take, several members suggested we hold town hall meetings or other open forums for members to develop shared goals and values for our organizations. Members were also interested in offering invitations to self-work, organizing seminar series, applying for external funding, and creating space for members to get what they need from the organizations, instead of assuming all members need the same thing. ASCN and SEISMIC then conducted individual meetings to create organization-specific equity plans.

During the SEISMIC Summer Meeting, SEISMIC leaders took initial steps towards these actions by hosting a discussion on the vision and goals of SEISMIC. The conversation quickly turned inward, with members asking how SEISMIC can achieve its outward-facing goals while internal structures hinder full participation of members. SEISMIC created an anonymous space for members to highlight structural issues with the collaboration, and then facilitated a discussion to hear from members on specific actions SEISMIC needs to stop and specific ones to start to make the collaboration more inclusive. In response to these difficult conversations, SEISMIC leadership sent out a message articulating how SEISMIC would examine its own structures and make changes, set up a facilitated open forum to hear feedback on the plan, and is now in the process of creating a SEISMIC Task Force to examine existing collaboration structures and recommend new ones. In addition, SEISMIC has created spaces for members to come together around shared experiences, including a Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) group, a Graduate Students group, and a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA) group.

Since the working session, ASCN has been in discussions with many leadership groups to understand how we can best implement the action items. Leaders included the PIs and the working group leaders along with specific working groups implementing summer programming. Each group discussed how they would want to move equity forward as each working group functions differently. For example, our working group 6 that focuses on aligning incentives with systemic change decided to update the purpose of their working group to weave inclusivity and equity within all of their activities. This differed from our working group focused on change leaders that decided to partner with equity scholars to collaborate on events. The ASCN leadership also created an equity meeting open to all members to receive feedback on the plan and received comments that have thus been incorporated into the fall plan. We created communication and leadership expectation guidelines, reviewed and edited by leadership, to ensure our norms are clearly stated. Lastly, we asked for collaborators in racial equity and wrote a grant this summer regarding a research project to create an institute for institutional teams to create change on their campus using systemic change and racial equity principles. This project will also provide an open access, racial equity framework for systemic change that will be available on ASCN’s website if funded.

Together, ASCN and SEISMIC have proposed strategies for organizational equity within the broader STEM education community and committed to regular accountability meetings. We proposed this conversation as a session at the AAC&U Transforming STEM conference to bring together other networks and share how we can build authentic communities and bridges between communities to focus on common challenges to equity within our organizations. We also plan to continue to meet monthly to keep both organizations accountable toward our racial equity plans.


Following summer activities, the SEISMIC Task Force will begin meeting this fall over the course of 12 weeks to examine existing collaboration structures and propose new ones to make SEISMIC more inclusive. SEISMIC will also be co-sponsoring the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER) “Striving towards inclusion in academic biology” seminar series for the second year. SEISMIC leadership will be working to publicize the original vision and goals for SEISMIC and outline paths for members to continue pushing forward its mission. At the same time, leadership has recognized that some members, in part due to the shifting focus brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the renewed calls for racial justice, are looking for SEISMIC to have broader impacts in higher education beyond the original vision and goals. This fall will be important for the collaboration to reestablish its scope and priorities while maintaining a community where members can get what they need.

ASCN This Fall

For ASCN, our priorities are to collect data to understand gaps to address, clarify our commitment to equity, increase leadership representation, and commit to recognizing the work of internal and external leaders. This fall we will be collecting data in a member survey, adding questions to previous member surveys to understand demographics (i.e., race, gender, role) of our membership and leadership as well as members’ experiences within ASCN. In clarifying our commitment to equity, our working group leaders suggested equity be a part of ASCN’s values so that equity is part of everything ASCN does, not just as a separate working group. To do this, we will create an ad-hoc committee to draft ASCN values to be ratified at our annual meeting in January. As we continue to make ASCN leadership more representative of our membership, we are seeking nominations for PIs of color to provide a much-need perspective as ASCN moves forward. Finally, we will commit to recognize the leaders of equity. We will highlight the work of ASCN leaders within regular meetings and also continue to advocate for equity work as important within the broader higher education community.



This is the first in a series of posts called Doing Organizational Equity Work in STEM meant to increase transparency and accountability regarding our organizations’ diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice goals. The next update will be posted in January 2022 to discuss progress towards the goals mentioned in this post and new directions in our organizations’ internal work to promote equity.



Nita Kedharnath

Nita Kedharnath is the Project Manager of the SEISMIC Collaboration. She coordinates the implementation and evaluation of SEISMIC activities and co-leads the Student Perspectives project in the Constructs Working Group.


Rachel Renbarger, Ph.D.

Dr. Rachel Renbarger is the Research Director of ASCN where she helps support the inclusion and dissemination of research-based educational strategies. With her PhD in Educational Psychology, her research works to address issues of access and equity in postsecondary education. This includes undergraduate as well as graduate education. Follow her on Twitter: @Dr_Rachel_Ren

Introducing SEISMIC Themes

By Linda Adler-Kassner & Nita Kedharnath

Why are we adding Themes to SEISMIC?

At our 2020 SEISMIC Summer Meeting, we heard from participants a desire to more formally connect the work of our Working Groups. In many ways, “measurement,” “experiments,” “implementing change,” and “constructs” are parts of larger processes for institutional change. For instance, to recommend policies, we need to experiment with changes; we need to define “constructs” to assess efforts toward equity and inclusion. With this in mind, while still maintaining the communities and projects of the Working Groups, we decided to add a new organizational layer to our collaboration called Themes.

Themes will tie together the knowledge gained through SEISMIC projects within Working Groups to focus on specific SEISMIC goals and to make SEISMIC-level recommendations. To achieve our ambitions for large-scale improvement in equity and inclusion in introductory STEM courses, Themes will enable us to leverage the expertise across the collaboration, intentionally bringing together experts in DEI scholarship, STEM teaching faculty, campus leaders, and institutional researchers.

What are the Themes?

Each Theme is defined by a short phrase and guiding question. The Theme Leaders (more on that below) will identify specific deliverables for each Theme. Each Theme is intentionally defined to include people and projects from across the four SEISMIC Working Groups (measurement, experiments, implementing change, and constructs); they are not meant to align with a single Working Group or Key Project.

The three Themes that we have identified and the questions at their core are:

Policies, Practices, and Assessments for Change

What are the best data-driven policies, practices, and assessment strategies to promote STEM classroom equity, and how can departments incorporate these strategies across their introductory courses?

Presenting Data at Multiple Levels for Change

What is the best way to operationalize equity and inclusion and present usable and compelling data to different audiences (faculty, department, administration) to motivate change and promote asset-based thinking regarding students at multiple levels?

Capacity-Building for Introductory STEM Change Makers

How can SEISMIC support introductory STEM change makers in leveraging their resources and developing structures so all students who have been historically “othered” can feel they belong in STEM?

Okay, but how are these different from Working Groups?

Good question. SEISMIC’s Working Groups bring together people and/or projects around specific foci under a wider umbrella. All are related to the Working Group topic. For example, our Experiments Working Group brings together many discipline-based education researchers and instructors to run specific experiments in STEM courses. These experiments may or may not be related to each other, but are connected in that they are all experiments in STEM courses. The Working Group provides the community to brainstorm with and try out these many projects.

Our Themes, on the other hand, seek to bring together the knowledge from multiple Working Groups into an aligned set of recommendations or activities. A Theme’s focus is not on running projects, but rather is focused on finding the connections between different SEISMIC activities. The ultimate goal of each Theme is to produce something actionable on behalf of the collaboration. The figure below describes how the different pieces of SEISMIC fit together.


What will the Themes actually do?

Based on the core questions (above), Theme Leaders will determine appropriate deliverables for each Theme. This could involve developing a set of recommendations, running workshops for the collaboration, publishing papers on their findings, or other activities. Once this is established, the Themes will connect with Working Groups and project teams as needed to learn what the collaboration has done related to these Themes, and what is missing.

Each Theme is responsible for organizing at least two SEISMIC-wide events in 2021. Events the Themes might hold include facilitated discussions, workshops, talk presentations, and more. These events will be an opportunity for the Themes to share what they are learning, get feedback, and stay connected to the collaboration. Each Theme will also provide a progress report to the SEISMIC Collaboration Council twice a year, including details on their most recent event, how they are making progress on their set of goals and deliverables, and upcoming plans to apply for funding. Finally, each Theme will present an update on their work at the 2021 SEISMIC Summer Meeting.

This sounds like a lot of work. How is this really going to happen?

Each Theme will be guided by two leaders, a Director and a Fellow (6 positions total for three Themes). All leaders will receive a $4,000 stipend for the 2020-2021 year. Applications for these positions close 10/30/2020 (apply here). Our Collaboration Council will review applications and select the leaders by mid-November 2020.

Anyone affiliated with a SEISMIC Institution is encouraged to apply for either the Director or Fellow positions. We especially encourage members with grant-writing experience to apply to be a Theme Director. The Director will take on a bigger picture role around activities of the Theme such as writing grant proposals or planning a SEISMIC-wide Theme event. They will look out for funding opportunities for the Theme. 

We especially encourage graduate students and postdoctoral fellows looking for leadership experience to apply to be a Theme Fellow. The Fellow will be responsible for connecting directly with the SEISMIC projects and staying updated on SEISMIC activities.

Theme Leaders are Expected To:

  • Apply for cross-institutional funding to support the work of the Theme
  • Lead organization of Theme events at least twice per year
  • Pull together Theme progress reports to send to the Collaboration Council twice per year
  • Facilitate collaboration within their Theme and between their Theme and the Working Groups
  • Identify clear goals and deliverables for their Theme and move their team towards them. Deliverables could include developing a set of recommendations, running workshops, publishing, etc.


All SEISMIC members are encouraged to join any Theme they are interested in. Participation in these Themes will look different for each one, but will generally involve supporting the Theme to achieve its (to be determined) deliverables. Once our Theme Directors and Fellows are selected, we will provide more information on what it means to be a Theme participant for each Theme. For now, feel free to email Nita ( if you would like to indicate interest in a Theme or if you have any questions.


Linda Adler-Kassner, Ph.D.

Linda Adler-Kassner, Ph.D. is the Faculty Director of the Center for Innovative Teaching, Research, and Learning at the University of California Santa Barbara as well as a Professor of Writing Studies and the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education. Linda is a member of the SEISMIC Collaboration Council and co-leads the Access to Practice project with Vanessa.


Nita Kedharnath

Nita Kedharnath is the Project Manager of the SEISMIC Collaboration. She coordinates the implementation and evaluation of SEISMIC activities and co-leads the Stakeholder Perspectives project in the Constructs Working Group.

Fostering Student Success with Access to Practice

By Vanessa Woods, Maggie Safronova, and Linda Adler-Kassner


As we develop courses that introduce students to practices and content within our respective disciplines, we must recognize that the students who enter our classrooms come with different social and academic experiences that inform their learning. In large introductory courses where the majority of participants can be categorized as disciplinary novices, this lack of access can lead to a disconnect that discourages students and frustrates professors.  As educators, we strive to design courses that provide students with access to our discipline regardless of how their prior academic experience shaped students’ process of learning.  Access to Practice (ATP) investigates how the development and implementation of highly structured peer review activities contribute to student academic experience.

Through ATP, UC Santa Barbara instructors work with the Center for Innovative Teaching, Research, and Learning (CITRAL) to design highly structured writing and peer review prompts focusing on challenging course concepts or challenging ways of writing. Over the two+ years CITRAL has sponsored ATP, faculty from Classics to Psychological and Brain Sciences, Political Science to Ecology, Evolutionary, and Marine Biology have developed ATP prompts and peer reviews, often in very large classes. Students have written and provided feedback about subjects as wide-ranging as the calculations involved in stoichiometry and the current-day applications of the Oedipus myth.

Structured peer review activities provide students with an environment in which they can develop ways of practicing within a discipline. As the students practice the application process several times in a guided environment they have the opportunity to develop their own approach that can be transferred to different contexts. The goal of this process helps students figure out the disciplinary norms including what type of questions to ask and how to answer them, writing conventions, and appropriate types of evidence. As the students get the opportunity to actively engage with disciplinary practices we expect to see an increase in student’s metacognitive strategies as well as help them feel like true members of their discipline. Preliminary data from UCSB suggests that by writing and providing feedback aimed at practicing disciplinary norms, students gain a deeper understanding of challenging concepts. This promising data is the basis for further exploration of the mechanism by which peer review activities affect elements that contribute to student success. The possible mechanisms being explored are metacognitive strategies, a sense of disciplinary membership, and disciplinary practices. We are currently looking for collaborators. Contact Vanessa Woods at for more information.


Vanessa Woods, Ph.D.

Vanessa Woods, Ph.D. is a Lecturer with Potential Security of Employment (LPSOE) which is a tenure track lecturer position (teaching professor) at the University of California Santa Barbara. She is an expert in effective teaching practices and student success research. Vanessa is active in the SEISMIC collaboration and leads the Access to Practice Project (Experiments Working Group, Project 4).


Maggie Safronova, Ph.D.

Maggie Safronova, Ph.D. is the Associate Director at the Center for Innovative Teaching, Research, and Learning at the University of California Santa Barbara. Maggie is involved in projects that explore the role of pedagogical innovations on students’ sense of belonging in large universities. Maggie is also the project director for UCSB’s ECoach project.


Linda Adler-Kassner, Ph.D.

Linda Adler-Kassner, Ph.D. is the Faculty Director of the Center for Innovative Teaching, Research, and Learning at the University of California Santa Barbara as well as a Professor of Writing Studies and the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education. Linda is a member of the SEISMIC Collaboration Council and co-leads the Access to Practice project with Vanessa.

Scaling Up Analysis in a SEISMIC Measurement Project

By Eben B. Witherspoon


The AP Project in the Measurement Working Group has been moving quickly through their project milestones. After starting strong last fall and developing shared analyses for the initial three SEISMIC institutions involved, they have started “scaling up” their project to the other seven SEISMIC institutions. While the three initial institutions are ironing out the details of their final models, the scale-up institutions are in various stages of cleaning their data and getting it ready to process. In this scale-up process, our AP Project team has learned much about what it takes to run a project across SEISMIC, and what key challenges can come up. We hope this post will provide some support for our fellow Measurement projects as they start preparing to scale up their efforts!

1. Set Common Variable Names

The first thing to consider when scaling up a Measurement project is setting common definitions and variable names for key concepts in the project. It was surprising to us how much variation there was by institution in seemingly straightforward terms such as “cohort.” Taking the time to clarify these not only facilitates discussions during meetings, but is important for ensuring that variables are being defined and generated in the same way, and that eventually, shared analysis code can be run on each institution’s dataset. 

Variable definitions and names from initial discussions in the AP and Demographic projects were merged in a working document to categorize variables across the Working Group. This could be a good jumping off point for coming up with SEISMIC-wide institutional data variable names.

An example of a method for generating project-wide variable definitions.


2. Attend to Dataset Formatting

Second, it is essential to decide up front on the format of the dataset for analysis (i.e. long vs. wide). Unless this is explicitly discussed, it’s easy to assume everyone is doing it the same way (but there are lots of ways people store and think about time-series data!) and this has big implications for doing shared analyses later. For example, in the AP Project, we eventually landed on a combination similar to “panel data” – our data is wide by student (i.e. each row is a single student) and stacked long by each discipline (i.e., all observations who took BIO are “stacked” on top of all observations in PHYSICS), with every student unique within each discipline, but able to be repeated across disciplines (i.e. if a student took both BIO and PHYSICS). This made the most sense for our project, as it allowed us to easily subset our analyses by discipline. It might be overkill, but creating a mock-up dataset could even be helpful to visually represent how the data looks, which variables are time-invariant or not, etc.

3. Share Model Specifications and Basic Descriptive Stats

Last but certainly not least, once you have settled on your Research Questions (RQs), it is very helpful to share clear model specifications including DV, IV and analytic sample. Even when the same model is being run, misinterpretation of patterns across institutions can easily be missed when looking at only regression tables when there are different understandings of what sample is being analyzed. Sometimes something as simple as looking at sample sizes can help catch these discrepancies early on. For example, if two schools of about the same size have vastly different Ns, something may be up. One way our project addressed this issue was by moving the part of the analysis that defines the sample (which was previously done in each individual institution’s data cleaning) to the shared script, so that each institution was literally running the same code to subset the data and generate the sample for each analysis. Of course, in order to do this, there first needed to be common variable names and similarly formatted datasets…hence parts 1 and 2 🙂 As an added “bonus,” these checks and balances worked together; if our shared code couldn’t run or gave us weird results, this led us to uncover previously undiscovered issues in our variable or sample definitions!

Additional Recommendations

We recommend each project save their analysis code in the SEISMIC-wide GitHub repository (email your GitHub username to to join). This is a great way to share code and track changes, without making overlapping edits. Our project also used R/RStudio and Google Co-Lab with Jupyter notebooks to share, run, and comment on each other’s code as we were developing it. Then, we saved the agreed-upon code in our AP Project (WG1-P4) GitHub repository.

We have also found it helpful to use R-Markdown to create an “Analysis Workflow” file, which acts as a guide for AP project participants in understanding the analysis process overall, including how to create a dataset that will work with our shared analysis code. It captures much of our thinking on streamlining and simplifying the scale-up process.  It also serves as a single location that links to various other relevant documents for running analyses (i.e. variable naming conventions, model specifications). In addition, the document itself is shared and editable, which allows notes to be added by institutions as more specific things pop up that might be useful to others (i.e. Pitt didn’t have a variable for the year AP was taken, so we developed and noted our work-around).

Example of the Analysis Workflow document for AP Project.


Calling All Demographics Project Analysts

We would love feedback from Demographics Project (WG 1 P1) analysts about our process and what you have been doing to coordinate. For example, have you found less complicated workarounds for the same issues? Are we missing key parts of scaling up that you’ve experienced? Let us know!

Interested in joining the AP Project?

Overall, the process for onboarding is:

  1. Join the Project GitHub repository (by emailing a GitHub username to
  2. Read the “Analysis Workflow” file (available on GitHub)
  3. Preview the SEISMIC variable definitions doc (also linked to in the Analysis Workflow file)
  4. Create an institution-specific folder in the WG1-P4 GitHub that contains the data cleaning files for that institution’s data – these will all be slightly different, but may be useful to see how others have done it as there will be some overlap.
  5. Once the data is in the same format, run the shared analysis file (available on GitHub). 
  6. Join one of our meetings and share your findings!




Eben B. Witherspoon, Ph. D.

Eben Witherspoon is a post-doctoral researcher in the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC) at the University of Pittsburgh. His main line of research examines attitudinal and environmental factors during the transition to college that influence retention in STEM career pathways for underrepresented students. Currently, he is working on a project looking at the factors influencing gendered attrition in the pre-med course sequence. Eben is an active SEISMIC member and works on the AP Project (Measurement Working Group, Project 4).