The multi-institutional, interdisciplinary STEM Equity Learning Community (SELC) Project is an NSF-funded initiative intended to develop equity-mindedness for participants and position them to promote this mindset in their own departments.

Our long-term goal is to transform introductory STEM courses into equitable learning environments. To do so, it is imperative that faculty, administrators, and undergraduate students recognize the structural role that courses and departments play in student success. Department leaders, as key connectors with both faculty and administrators, are central to this process. The overall objective of this proposal is to establish STEM Equity Learning Communities (SELCs) in universities across the U.S. that will foster impactful approaches for engaging faculty, department leaders, and undergraduate students in equity-minded discussions of their STEM courses.

Our central hypothesis is that when SELCs use course equity measures, co-develop interpretations of the data and action plans, and present their findings to campus leadership, they will develop equity-mindedness and be well-positioned to promote this mindset in their departments.







The SELC Project is funded by the NSF IUSE Program.


Spring 2023

Summer 2023

Fall 23 – Spring 24

Summer 2024

  • Recruit SELC teams
  • Discuss equity measures
  • Summer Institute
  • Develop local equity reports
  • SELC meetings
  • Inter-SELC meetings
  • Public talk series
  • Campus presentations

Project Leadership



Tim McKay

Principal Investigator


Kem Saichaie

Principal Investigator


Marco Molinaro

Co-Principal Investigator


Ryan Sweeder

Co-Principal Investigator


Nita Tarchinski

Project Manager


Objectives and Activities

The proposed project is our next step toward transforming STEM courses into equitable learning environments. The corresponding table ties the four key activities from our central hypothesis to our expected outcomes.

Key Activity


Expected outcome

Establish STEM Equity Learning Communities (SELCs)

Project leadership team builds SELCs across SEISMIC institutions

Guide for running data-centric SELCs that can be adapted for different institutional contexts

Develop Menu of Equity Measures

Project leadership team shares SEISMIC equity measures and code with institutional researchers, who then generate equity measurements for SELCs to review

Development and implementation of a broad set of equity measures that can be used and are relevant across many institutions

Co-Develop Interpretations of Data and Action Plan

SELCs meet to discuss equity data, develop equity-minded approaches to examining data, and develop action plans for their campus

Equity-minded action plans for peer universities across the U.S. to address systemic inequities in introductory STEM courses

Presentations to Campus Leadership

SELCs share recommendations with campus leadership for local reform based on action plans and consultations with the project leadership team

Field-tested instruments for measuring mindsets on student success

Through these activities, we will foster impactful approaches for engaging faculty, department leaders, and undergraduate students in equity-minded discussions of their STEM courses. Further, our approach to SELCs will provide a consistent, but adaptable, platform for future cross-institution comparisons of implementation and impact. Participation in this project will be open to all 10 SEISMIC institutions. While the institutions involved through SEISMIC are all top-tier public R1 institutions, such institutions have tended to strongly hold on to academic traditions that contribute to perpetuating inequities in introductory STEM courses. These institutions also introduce thousands of students to STEM disciplines each year. By showing the engagement of this group of institutions in improving introductory STEM outcomes, and their paths towards successful changes, we believe we will have a firm footing to engage other similar, as well as different institutions in engaging in a similar process and together fostering substantial improvements from community colleges to private elite institutions. Our approach will include careful considerations on approaches to equity measurements, using these measurements in different institutional contexts, building institutional systems to engage in regular sharing of equity analyses, and prompting productive dialogue among faculty, department leaders, and undergraduate students about student success.

Teams and Events

The SELC Teams

Each participating institution will establish one SELC made up of (at minimum) four STEM faculty members, two undergraduate students, one institutional researcher, and one facilitator (evolutionary and political change perspective). The faculty members should have recent teaching experience in introductory STEM courses and a role in their department leadership or their department’s curriculum planning. We have found that faculty in these roles tend to be interested in accessing course equity data, learning how to bring this information to their departments in useful ways, and have the power to direct department conversations. Ideally, three to four STEM departments on each campus would be represented by these faculty members, resulting in impacts on 30 to 40 departments across the U.S. The participating faculty members will use past class email lists to advertise the student positions to students who completed their intro STEM courses in recent terms. We use the term “institutional researcher” loosely to refer to someone who is able to access institutional data and run R code. This type of person may have different titles at different universities. Besides accessing data, the institutional researcher will also make key decisions on how equity measurements are conducted and presented. The facilitator can be a staff member in the local teaching and learning center, the office of diversity and inclusion, or another related unit with experience facilitating faculty conversations on equity. They will be the key contact between the local SELC on each campus and the project leadership team (institutional change perspective).



Each campus SELC will meet approximately monthly during the 2023-2024 academic year for a total of eight SELC meetings. The equity measurements provided by the institutional researchers will promote evidence-based discussions based on local course-specific data and comparative data across departments. The project leadership team will provide topics and goals for the meetings as well as suggested activities and materials to the local facilitators, who will then facilitate the meetings and guide the SELC members through recognizing their underlying beliefs about students and student success.

Mtg  Meeting Topic
1 Equity data and equity traps
2 Asking questions of your data
3 What inequities do you notice? What explanations do you use?
4 Alternative explanations for academic outcomes
5 Local presentation action plans
6 Seeing the system
7 Using equity data to spotlight systemic barriers
8 Addressing equity traps, responding to skepticism

Three times throughout the academic year we will have virtual events that connect SELCs across campuses, called “Inter-SELC Events.” These events will provide opportunities to share key learnings, compare equity data and action plans across departments and institutions, learn about the successes and challenges of peer SELCs, and inspire the SELCs to continue in their work (see table below). The project leadership team will also host a public talk series during this year to continue conversations coming up in the SELC meetings and connect their work to the larger SEISMIC community. These talks will build on the successes of the online public SEISMIC speaker series developed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Approx. Date Event Topic
April 2023 Introduction to The SELC Project
May 2023 May Institute
October 2023 What inequities do you notice?
January 2024 Possibilities for the local presentations
April 2024 Disciplinary patterns across institutions

The May Institute

Public Talk Series

Dates: May 11-12, 2023


Our 2-day Summer Institute hosted by UC Davis provided support for institutional researchers in making equity measurements and officially launched the collaborative work of our SELCs. The Institute provided opportunities to build community across institutions, especially between people with similar institutional roles, to learn about different methods for making equity measurements, to practice reviewing course equity data through an equity-minded lens, and to generate excitement for the upcoming year. Each SELC now has a preliminary plan for the equity measurements—both the analysis and how it will be shared—that will be generated for their team later this summer, based on institutional researcher capacity and overall SELC interest. These measurements look different for each campus, depending on what data tools and platforms are available. Each SELC can now review the course equity measurements they decided on in the context of department and institution data.

The central activity of the proposed project is a year-long series of meetings and events to support the work and goals of the SELCs. Our objective is to foster impactful approaches for engaging faculty, department leaders, and undergraduate students in equity-minded discussions of their STEM courses. It is not enough to present evidence of inequities via course equity data. This data must be supplemented by facilitated discussions, one-on-one consultations, and other resources for individuals to recognize these inequities as due to systemic problems. The activities we propose will help each individual see strategies they can engage in, as well as reforms they can push for at higher levels, to make positive changes in their STEM courses.