February Newsletter

Julie Serafin named director of HEPC WV Science and Research

Dr. Julie Serafin, a WV (Philippi) native and currently Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Charleston, has been named the new Director of the Division of Science Research at the Higher Education Policy Commission. Serafin replaces outgoing Director, Dr. Jan Taylor, who retired at the end of January. No stranger to First2, Dr. Serafin has been co-chair of the First2 Capacity Working Group since the spring of 2019. Serafin’s background includes a BS degree from West Virginia University, a PhD from Harvard University, eighteen years working as a RD chemist at Dow Chemical/Union Carbide and twelve years teaching chemistry and physics at UC. Read more here.

First2 Network Announces Two-Week Summer Research Immersion Sites for 2020

After an application and review process that began in November, nine sites have been selected to host First2 Summer Research Immersive Experiences for rising freshmen who are first generation to college and/or members of other underrepresented groups in STEM. These sites were competitively selected through a grant proposal process that detailed the sites plans to expose first generation STEM students to career opportunities, academic support services, and research programs.

Applications are currently being accepted for student participation and students can select which site they would prefer to attend. The programs for the two week experiences will highlight the strengths of each site while also diversifying the research activities within the network so students can find an experience that will best support their career ambitions. Unless otherwise noted, camp dates will run from July 19-August 1.

In alphabetical order, the sites are:

Fairmont State University, Fairmont, WV, will work with Chemours to provide 15 students a unique experience in both academic and industrial laboratories. Students will gain experience in analytical chemistry, solar cells, and microbial communities.

Green Bank Observatory, Green Bank, WV, will host 20 students working in teams to analyze archived Radio Frequency Interference data to curate a categorized and searchable database that includes common RFI features.

High Rocks, Hillsboro, WV, is an award-winning youth leadership organization and will be hosting 8 female participants to work in dendrochronology in collaboration with researchers from West Virginia University.This program will run from July 10-July 25.

Marshall University, Huntington, WV, will host 10 students to conduct research activities in chemistry, biology, computer science, and forensics. Each of the students will meet research faculty in different disciplines and explanations of the support services Marshall provides for undergraduate students.

University of Charleston, Charleston, WV, will host 10 students from July 6-July 19 to learn how to conduct tests on soil samples as part of a national program with the University of Wisconsin and Yale. The participants will be examining the unique Appalachian forest soils for novel antibiotic producing microbes.

West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Lewisburg, WV, will host 8 students who have an interest in pursuing a career in the life sciences. In particular students will gain experience in areas such as bacterial protein toxicity, biomechanics, chemotherapy agents, and femur morphology.

West Virginia State University, Institute, WV will engage 10 students in the research activities of faculty members which include neural networks, organic synthesis, integrated pest management, novel cancer treatments, and gene expression.

West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, will host 12 students with research opportunities in developmental biology addressing questions related to human and environmental health and geographical mapping of the socio-economic needs of Appalachia. Students intending to major in any STEM discipline will benefit from either research project. Two of the students will be funded by the WVU Departments of Biology and/or Chemistry.

West Virginia University Institute of Technology, Beckley, WV, will host 12 students who have an interest in computer science or computer/electrical engineering. These students will work in developing programs or apps in virtual or augmented reality, inventory management, and computer assisted optimization of solar cells.

Two-Week Summer Research Immersion Applications – now open to rising freshmen and mentors

First2Network is pleased to announce that applications are open for the 2020 Summer Research Immersion Program. This is a unique opportunity for first-generation college students and other underrepresented students in West Virginia who are majoring in STEM and getting ready to start their first year of college in the fall of 2020.

Please help share the word because this summer we can host 103 rising freshmen students at 9 sites from around the state!

The purpose of these programs is to help students gain information in research experiences, academic wrap around services, STEM careers, and college persistence.

The sites were competitively selected through a grant proposal process. Each site will employ multiple experienced undergraduate students to act as mentors to guide participants as they begin their college experience.

Applications are currently being accepted for student participation and students can select which site they would prefer to attend.

Read more on https://first2network.org under STUDENTS/Student Opportunities/Summer Research Program. Application links for rising college freshmen and for current college students who want to be mentors are under STUDENTS. Rising college freshmen – apply hereCurrent college students who want to be mentors – apply here.

First2 Network and West Virginia Academy of Science Collaboration 2020 – Abstracts due Feb. 21

First2 is pleased to announce the availability of travel scholarships for presentations about STEM student success initiatives at the 95th annual West Virginia Academy of Science (WVAS) meeting, to be held at Fairmont State University on March 21, 2020. (See WVAS http://pwvas.org/index.php/pwvas/pages/view/meetings Annual Meeting Information) Previous involvement with First2 or with WVAS is not required; in fact we want to bring in new ideas and people!

A major aim of First2 is to connect existing initiatives across the state to promote sharing of what works and what doesn’t. Abstracts for posters and oral presentations (due February 21, 2020) are welcomed from anyone involved in efforts to promote student persistence and success in STEM fields. We expect to have a vibrant sharing of initiatives. Example initiatives might include early research experiences for undergraduates, summer and academic year programs, advising programs, and novel course approaches or elements. First2 uses an improvement science framework (Networked Improvement Communities) to try to make helpful changes at scale on a rapid cycle.

Funds are available to support registration, meals, mileage and housing (if needed) for WVAS presenters whose abstracts are accepted for presenting about student success initiatives.

Funds are also available for first generation students presenting their research at the conference.

To apply, visit https://first2network.org and choose Opportunities/First2 Assistance.  Direct link to that page is https://first2network.org/opportunities/f2assistance.  Then select First2 Travel Application Request and fill out the form. 

If you have any questions about the travel application, please contact Erica Harvey at eharvey@fairmontstate.edu

Questions about the abstract process can be sent to Kristy Henson (Kristy.Henson@fairmontstate.edu) after you read WVAS Annual Meeting Information)

First2 Support stipends awarded to faculty and staff

Roshan Lamichhane, WVU and Marwa Abdel Lati, University of Detroit Mercy (and formerly of Concord University in WV) are the first recipients of First2 Support Stipends for improvement science work.  Both are active members of the Faculty-Student Engagement Working Group.  Roshan’s project is “Teaching Students Metacognitive Learning Strategies” and Marwa’s is “Group Office Hours for Chemistry Students.” You can request an account (email Sue Ann Heatherly at sheather@nrao.edu)  view their Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles (and start your own change ideas!) in our Networked Improvement Learning and Support (NILS) instance from Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching:  https://first2network.carnegienetworks.org.

First2 featured on the INCLUDES National Network Blog

The Network Spotlight blog post is live on the national website! Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to the national conversation around Strengthening Capacity to Implement Culturally Responsive Practices, exploring issues related to the intersectionality of social, economic, and environmental dynamics, and culturally responsive practices effective for broadening participation in STEM. This Network Spotlight highlights one of the presenters, Sarah Riley of the First2 Network. Here’s a link to the post

What’s happening because of First2?

 New form to capture information about the multitude of small and large impacts First2 is having on the people and institutions involved. Whenever you realize that something has happened because of First2 or a connection you made through First2, please take a minute to submit it on this form. We want to capture all the ways First2 is starting to change what we do and how we do it and who we do it with – could be a connection or new initiative or new process you are implementing, a proposal, presentation, etc.  Nothing is too small to capture – it might grow or it might point us to a whole collection of small things that together are a big change! This form is also useful for longer or more formal updates on what you or your group are working on, to support content creation including articles, social media posts, etc. http://first2network.org/machform/view.php?id=21296

November 8-10, 2019 – Successful First2 Network “Celebrate, Connect, Create” Conference

Tim Podkul, of the NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub, welcomed 70 participants to the First2 Network, “Celebrate, Connect, Create” conference on November 9, 2019, at the Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, WV . He opened the main conference as he spoke about “Collective Improvement through Common Measurement”. Dr. Anthony Jenkins, president of West Virginia State University, followed as the Keynote Speaker. The group of students and educators were captured by his personal story and by his encouragement to persevere against all odds.

Saturday afternoon continued as  Joanna Burt-Kinderman (Pocahontas County Schools) and Samantha Mitchell (High Rocks) shone a spotlight on First2 Network students’ work and their roles. Promising practices of how they did it and how they are learning was described by the Immersive Working Group and their PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) led by Mike Fultz (West Virginia State University) and Mike Norton (Marshall University). A report of Research Results for Rural and First Generation Students: Refining the definition of rural and first generation, exploring the social network constructed by First2, and examining the effects of rural or first generation status on STEM major selection and college success was presented by John Stewart and Marjorie Darrah (West Virginia University).

An intentional part of any First2 Network conference is to allow time for reflective conversations of topics presented. Several of these opportunities were sprinkled throughout the afternoon around the tables and during coffee breaks. 

The remainder of the Saturday portion of the conference continued with the Steering Committee, Working Groups, and Student Leaders  staying for afternoon sessions led by Cindy Ziker, (SRI)  to Reflect on the 3 A’s of PDSA Cycles (Adapt, Adopt, or Abandon).

Friday evening kicked off the conference with meetings of the Leadership Team, Steering Committee and Student Leaders. Guests Carol Carter, President/CEO of GlobalMindED and Ann Kaiser, CEO ProjectEngin, along with Tim Podkul, SRI and Coordination Hub, joined for dinner on Friday as well.  Late Friday and early Saturday saw various attendees actively networking and also interacting with students on STEM homework questions for their classes.

Sunday morning began early with substantive report-outs from each the Working Group,  followed by a conclusion and wrap up survey with Kim Cowley (ICF) and Sarah Riley (High Rocks).  Boxes lunches from Stonewall were served as attendees dispersed with a charge to continue to celebrate accomplishments, connect with others, and create their future. 

First2 thanks the conference organizing team, especially Brandi Ettehadieh of WV Science & Research and Madge Vosteen of Green Bank Observatory, for their tireless efforts to make the event a smooth success.  

Measurement Working Group gets new co-chairs

Dr. Margie Darrah, Chair of the Department of Mathematics at WVU, and Dr. Debbie Shaver, Principal Education Researcher, Center for Learning and Development, SRI, have agreed to take on roles as co-chairs of the Measurement Working Group.  We thank Dr. Cindy Ziker and Kim Cowley for their service to First2  in this key role during the fall of 2019!

Faculty-Student Engagement WG meeting


Spring conference date and place announced

Upcoming May 11-15,  2020

First2-inspires institutional change at WVU:

Michelle Richards-Babb used improvement science methodology to study her own implementation of professional development opportunities at WVU. Dr. Saundra McGuire (Emeritus Professor, Louisiana State University), a nationally renowned speaker on metacognition, student motivation and teaching students how to learn, presented four workshops to the WVU campus community on Sept. 4 & 5, 2019. Several First2 members from across the state also attended one or more workshops.

Michelle used the PDSA cycle, adopted by the First2 Network, to assess the professional development initiative and its long-term effects on attendees. Attendees were surveyed at two time points. Surveys assessed attendee understanding, proposed use of (soon after the workshop) and use of (end of Fall 2019 semester) metacognitive, motivational and appreciative advising strategies as informed by their attendance at one of the McGuire workshops. Results from this study, especially to what degree the workshop attendees modified their teaching, will inform future actions and activities involving professional development.


Irving Attends Lifebound Coaching Training in Denver

Jade Irving, a Retention Specialist at West Virginia State University, had the opportunity to attend LifeBound’s 5-day intensive coaching training Oct. 21-25 in Denver, Colorado with support from First2 Network and from the office of Dr. Shannon McGhee, her supervisor at WVSU. Jade summarizes her experience at the training with one word: transformational. LifeBound’s 5-day intensive training centers around helping students determine their purpose and passion (see https://lifebound.com/). Participants of the training learned and practiced innovative skills to help students set goals, gain perspective, apply problem solving, and find resilience. Additionally, participants were taught how to use powerful questions during coaching sessions to allow students to self-reflect and find intrinsic motivation. Jade returned from the LifeBound training with a strong conviction that anyone who works with students needs this training. “It was truly a gathering of passionate professionals who are dedicated to learning all they can to help students succeed.” 

Dissemination Activities – Presented, Accepted, Submitted, Planned

Together we can tell the story of First2 all over the country!  Please consider applying for travel funding to present about your aspect of First2 Network.  At first2network.org, choose Opportunities/First2 Assistance and fill out the form.


1. American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting January 4-8, 2020, Honolulu, HI: Potential Impact of a Short-duration (2 week) Internship on STEM Self Efficacy among First Generation College Students.

S. Heatherly1, E. Harvey2, M. Fultz3, M. Norton4;1Green Bank Observatory, Green Bank, WV, 2Fairmont State University, Fairmont, WV, 3West Virginia State University, Institute, WV, 4Marshall University, Huntington, WV.

Nationally, more than half of all college students who declare a major in STEM fields drop out or change their majors in the first two years of post-secondary education. Among first-generation college students (FGCS) this number may approach 70%. The literature reports several reasons: under-preparation in math, weak connections to other STEM students and a disconnect between retention interventions offered to freshmen and sophomores and students’ STEM coursework. The literature also offers some potential solutions, and one of them– engagement in a STEM research community–is shown to increase student motivation to remain in STEM career pathways. However, many STEM research opportunities such as REU programs, tend to target older undergraduate students who have already successfully navigated their first two years in college. As a member of an NSF INCLUDES Alliance called the First2 Network, the Green Bank Observatory and other institutions have explored short duration internships for rising freshmen who are first generation students. This paper will share what we have learned about the potential of such internships to improve STEM students’ self-efficacy, and persistence in STEM majors.

Poster Link

2. American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Meeting, January 18-21, 2020, Orlando, FL.  Using Machine Learning to Understand the Retention of STEM Students

John Stewart: Invited talk 

Retention of STEM students is a critical national problem. Introductory physics classes play a key role in the retention of these students. This talk will first explore retention through survival analysis to show the critical role of time in understanding retention. Machine learning algorithms including logistic regression, decision trees, and random forests are then applied to understand the variables important in predicting retention through the first year of college. This analysis identifies being a successful student in high school and arriving on campus “calculus-ready” as critical predictors of success. The student’s progression through the network of introductory science and mathematics courses is then explored. Machine learning algorithms are applied to understand a student’s risk factors as they matriculate from Calculus 1 and Chemistry 1 through Physics 1 and 2.


3. Undergraduate Research Day at the Legislature, February 7, 2020

Coy Smith, Marshall University

Sarah Starcovic and Shannon Knowlton, Fairmont State University

Jayden Creasey, West Virginia State University

4. Roxann and Margie.  West Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics (WVCTM) meeting at Stonewall Resort March 13-14, 2020. Using Social Network Analysis to Measure Growth in the First2 Alliance in WV

5. American Chemical Society (ACS) Spring 2020 National Meeting & Expo, March 22-26, 2020. Student Engagement Encouraging Success

Micheal W. Fultz , Michael L. Norton , Erica Harvey , Michelle Richards-Babb , Adam Smith , SueAnn Heatherly, 1. Dept of Chemistry 217 Hamblin Hall, West Virginia State University, Institute, WV, United States. 2. Marshall Univ, Huntington, WV, United States. 3. Chemistry, Fairmont State University, Fairmont, WV, United States. 4. West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, United States. 5. Chemours, Parkersburg, WV, United States. 6. Green Bank Observatory, Green Bank, WV, United States.

Abstract: West Virginia is looking toward the future and the STEM needs of our workforce. To prepare for these needs, a statewide consortium of educational institutions, industry and other groups across the state is partnering through First2 Network, a National Science Foundation INCLUDES Alliance. The goal of First2 is to increase the number of first-generation and other underrepresented students who graduate with STEM degrees in WV, with central guidance from the students themselves. Support for First2 Scholars currently includes early exposure to research, leadership, and social engagement as well as professional development opportunities with industry and graduate schools. In the summer of 2019, chemists and others from four state universities and Chemours worked together to plan and host two-week immersive research experiences for thirty rising freshmen STEM majors (divided between four sites and spanning multiple disciplines), providing valuable knowledge about career options available with a STEM degree. First2 Scholars spent much of the two-week period engaging in research projects, with the remainder devoted to social engagement, mentoring and leadership development led by upper-class mentors, along with learning about the academic support services offered by their chosen institution. The summer program is connected with an academic year program in which students can continue with research. Support from First2 is provided with the intent of improving the etention rates of students in their first two years of college in the STEM disciplines, preparing them to fill the demand for STEM professionals needed to grow our economy.

6. GlobalMindED Conference 2020, Jun 6-8, Denver, CO. First2 Network for STEM, Rural and First Gen

Kathryn Williamson, Teaching Assistant Professor, Physics and Astronomy, West Virginia University; Adam Smith, Senior Research Chemist, The Chemours Company, others including First2 students to be determined

First2 Network is a National Science Foundation INCLUDES Alliance comprised of West Virginia educators, students, scientists, and shareholders from across the state working to improve the graduation rate and success of rural, first-generation and other underrepresented college students pursuing STEM degrees. First2 is using the Networked Improvement Communities model for approaching systemic change, and first-generation students are at the center of the work. This presentation will highlight major current initiatives and findings from improvement science-based working groups focused on College Readiness, Immersive Internship Experiences (Academic and Industrial), Faculty-Student Engagement and Student Leadership.  


7. Rural College Access and Success Summit (RCASS) meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona  April 26-28 – Building a Network to Encourage and Retain Rural, First-generation WV StudentS in STEM.

Roxann Humbert and Margie Darrah.

8. Council on Undergraduate Research’s (CUR) 2020 Biennial Conference on June 27-30, 2020 at Purdue University. Establishing State-Wide Summer Research Experiences for Rising Freshmen in STEM

Michelle Richards-Babb, West Virginia University

Engaging undergraduates in authentic research allows students to find their niche within STEM, allowing them to advance through upper-level STEM coursework and their chosen STEM career. However, few research opportunities exist for rising freshmen students. Herein, we describe how a statewide West Virginia network of educational institutions, industry and other groups – the First2 Network – worked together to plan and host two-week summer research opportunities at four different sites for 30 rising freshmen STEM majors.  First2 Scholars spent much of the two-weeks engaged in research projects, with the remainder devoted to social engagement, mentoring by advanced STEM majors, academic and professional development, and career exploration. Beyond the summer program, First2 Scholars remain engaged. They continue in research, develop in leadership and provide input into First2 Network functioning and plans for change and expansion. Engagement is expected to improve persistence of students in their first two- years of college in STEM disciplines, providing the next generation of STEM leaders and professionals for economic growth. The First2 Network is a National Science Foundation funded INCLUDES Alliance with the goal of increasing the number of first-generation and other underrepresented students who graduate with STEM degrees in West Virginia. First2 is supported by NSF Award numbers HRD-1834569, 1834575, 1834586, 1834595, and 1834601.

Planned Submissions:

9. Association Supporting Computer Users in Education – ASCUE meeting in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina June 7-11 – Networked Improvement Learning and Support (NILS™) Platform for Continuous Improvement in Education

Roxann Humbert and Margie Darrah.

10. West Virginia Academy of Science meeting (Mar 21, Fairmont State University, Fairmont, WV)

Evaluation Team, Caitlin Howley

11. American Evaluation Association conference (Oct 26 – 31, Portland, OR)

Evaluation Team, Caitlin Howely

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