Albion College, Woodson part of NSF grant to analyze Black students’ STEM experiences

October 26, 2022

Albion College’s Dr. Ashley Woodson is part of the Collaborative Research-Racial Equity project (CRRE) that has received an $8.8 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to examine undergraduate Black students’ postsecondary STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) success.

“This project is an opportunity to identify issues impacting black students across colleges and universities. It aligns with the vision of the James L. Curtis Institute for Race and Belonging, and helps us develop better and best practices for our students,” said Woodson, who was a co-author of the grant and will support implementation fidelity. “It’s about building a network of people creating success stories.”

The NSF award, “Collaborative Research: EHR Racial Equity: Examining Blackness in Postsecondary STEM Education through a Multidimensional-Multiplicative Lens” will establish participating institutions as thought leaders in international conversations about Black students’ access to STEM knowledge, majors and professions.

“This has the potential to be quite radical,” said Dr. Terrell Morton, assistant professor of Identity and Justice in STEM Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Morton is the lead primary investigator on the grant. “Radical in that we are holding ourselves and the fields of study represented here accountable for a necessary rethinking of identity and institutional change.”

The project, which will launch in early 2023, includes researchers from the University of Illinois-Chicago, Duke University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Texas at Austin, Tennessee State University, Georgia State University, American University, North Carolina A&T State University and the University of Calgary.

The award is part of the highly competitive NSF Education and Human Resources Racial Equity initiative, which seeks to support bold, ground-breaking and potentially transformative projects addressing systemic racism in STEM. Woodson is a founding member and qualitative research coach for CRRE, a scholar-activist network representing more than 10 institutions of higher education.

The grant will allow CRRE to develop new paradigms for higher education policy and pedagogy. Influenced by scholarship in Black Studies, the mixed-method research project will probe nuanced conceptions of Blackness to develop more robust theories of racial, academic, and professional identity.

“What we don’t know about race and STEM epistemology surpasses what we do know,” said Woodson, a sociologist who studies Black students’ identity development and empowerment. “Resulting new knowledge will be an important theoretical advance, but it will also set precedents and imperatives for action by other researchers, educators and activists.”

CRRE spent more than a year developing the proposal and designing the research project. Woodson and Morton will share a postdoctoral researcher who will help collect data and identify platforms for sharing new knowledge with students, families, researchers and STEM faculty in Albion and multiple sites across the country, including historically Black colleges and universities.

“Leading in this conversation will shift the vocabulary and national perspectives on the intricacies of race and STEM achievement,” Woodson said. “Albion College is already on the map for outstanding liberal arts education, this is evidence of our continued commitment to accessible STEM pathways.”