Who We Are
The First2 Network is one of 17 Alliances across the country funded through the NSF INCLUDES initiative. INCLUDES stands for Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science.
We started out as a pilot project in 2016, funded by the National Science Foundation. We had reviewed the literature on STEM student success, and learned that nationally, 50% of the students who start out with a STEM major change that major or drop out of college during the first 2 years of their post secondary education, and the statistic is worse for first generation students. Understanding the obstacles that face first generation STEM students, and changing the systems that produce these obstacles, became our charge.
The First2 Network (First2) is working to generate compelling, actionable information on how participating institutions can improve the success of first-generation and other underrepresented STEM college students; to accomplish this, we fund institutional teams to test and share high-impact practices to improve the college enrollment rate and success of undergraduate STEM students, with emphasis on rural, first-generation and other underrepresented students (including students with disabilities, racial minorities, women, LGBTQ+, and low-income students) through their first 2 years of college. At the core of our shared vision to improve student STEM success is the assumption that the students themselves should be co-creators of the solutions and that our efforts will drive systemic change as well as inform resource allocation and policy on a large scale.
What We Do
- Work in true partnership with students: not “to” students; not ”for” students; but “with” students, we explore ways to improve the college STEM experience.
- Use improvement science to identify, test, and scale high-impact practices organized around four main drivers of change identified by the network; meaningful connection with institutional teams to promote belonging, connection to STEM research and career opportunities, engagement in leadership experiences, and success academically. The First2 Network uses a Collective Impact/Networked Improvement Communities framework to carry out improvement science; you can read more about this framework here. Institutional teams apply improvement science approaches from the Carnegie Foundation for Teaching and Learning (Plan-Do-Study-Act or PDSA rapid cycles for testing of change ideas) to build evidence for scalable and transferable practices and policies across the state and the nation.
- Conduct educational research to understand the factors that affect rural first generation students’ entry into and persistence in STEM career pathways.
- Foster new partnerships and programs addressing STEM success and systems change.
- Expand our network across West Virginia and other rural states.
Frequently Asked Questions
The problem is complex, and there are many innovative programs in West Virginia and beyond that are working on it. Let’s join forces to amplify this progress!
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