STEM Graduate Education Challenge Prompts Hundreds to Offer Ideas for Improvements
Challenge launched by National Science Foundation reveals desire to reshape graduate education according to today’s increasingly global and interdisciplinary practice of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
Today the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the winners of the Innovation in Graduate Education Challenge, launched in February 2013 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The challenge invited graduate students from across the nation to submit innovative ideas to prepare them for tomorrow's opportunities and challenges. Entrants were encouraged to submit ideas with the potential to improve graduate education and professional development. Ideas could be oriented to students, faculty, departments, institutions, professional societies, and/or federal agencies. Participation in the challenge was limited to currently-enrolled STEM graduate students. They were invited to submit by April 15, 2013, a 1,000- to 1,500-word response to this challenge.
The challenge was launched at a time when graduate education in STEM could be considered to be at a crossroads. Several reports have recently raised concerns about graduate education in STEM and the need to better prepare students for a range of career options in an increasingly global and competitive world. The challenge specifically asked for students to voice their ideas in the broader discussion of graduate education.
The challenge, developed and administered by NSF's Division of Graduate Education, offered cash prizes to first-, second- and third-place winners, selected by a panel of judges of current and recent STEM graduate students as well as experts in higher education in two rounds of judging. In addition, the public at large was invited to vote for their favorite submission from among 53 finalists to select the Community Choice winner, who also won a cash prize.
More than 500 teams submitted entries to the challenge, representing more than 700 STEM graduate students, 155 universities/institutions and 47 states, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
"We were very excited about the level of participation in this challenge," said NSF Acting Director Cora Marrett. "Not only did we hear from students from all fields of study and from institutions across the country; we also had a tremendous range of ideas offered for improving graduate education in STEM."
Ten percent of the entries advanced to the final round of judging and were eligible for Community Choice voting. Over 3,000 votes were cast for Community Choice.
The winners are listed below. Pictures and a more detailed description of their work are available at the Graduate Education Challenge website.
The contest illuminated a number of key areas cited by participants that can inform the preparation of STEM graduate students, including educators, institutions, and federal agencies:
Winning individuals and teams and their topics follow:
First Place--$3,000 prize
Opening the Doors of STEM Graduate Education: A Collaborative, Web-Based Approach to Unlocking Student Pathways
Second Place--$2,000 prize (two winners)
The Scientists with Stories Project
Retaining Women in STEM Careers: Graduate Students as the Building Blocks of Change
Third Place--$1,500 prize (four winners)
Communicating Science to the Public: A New Graduate Course and Practicum
Beyond the Academy: Enhancing STEM Education through External Graduate Assistantships
A National Online Platform for STEM Graduate Student Career Exploration and Professional Development
Creating a Cooperative Environment for Graduate Studies and Career Preparation
Community Choice Winner--$1,000 prize
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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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