First2 Network Newsletter – August 2020

First2 Network and WV-INBRE have partnered together to provide six First2 students attending West Virginia University and Marshall University an opportunity to do paid research during the 2020-2021 academic year. Application deadline September 1, 2020. More information here
Immersive Experiences
First2 Network held this year’s Summer Immersive Experiences virtually due to the current pandemic. Incoming freshmen at our partner institutions received care packages that included all the tools they needed to perform research from the comfort of their home. From testing water quality, characterizing radio signals, and producing a PCR machine, students were able to do valuable research together while meeting virtually with their peers, peer mentors, and site leads to discuss the results of their research.

An important component of First2 Network’s effort is the facilitation of multiple summer internships for rising college freshmen who are rural, first-generation and/or belong to other groups underrepresented in STEM. Research suggests that early engagement in STEM research can be a highly motivating factor in students’ persistence in a STEM course of study.  These two-week internships engage students in authentic STEM research experiences with faculty and peers, as well as opportunities for networking and building relationships with similar students. The internships are designed to promote, in beginning STEM majors, a sense of belonging in the STEM community and to improve confidence and self-efficacy in conducting STEM research.

Summer 2020 Virtual Immersive Sites included: Fairmont State University in Fairmont, W.Va., working with ChemoursGreen Bank Observatory in Green Bank, W.Va.; 
High Rocks in Hillsboro, W.Va.; Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va.; University of Charleston in Charleston, W.Va.; West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, W.Va.; West Virginia State University in Institute, W.Va.; West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va.; and West Virginia University Institute of Technology in Beckley, W.Va.
“It’s an honor to be working with people who I will be talking with for probably the rest of my college experience. You make friends and meet staff that will help you throughout college. So far, my favorite part of the program is being able to do research activities, such as testing water, identifying bees and monitoring fireflies at night. Very educational!” MaeLynn Lansdowne, student participant at West Virginia State University
“I’ve really loved the friends that First2 has connected me with, and I’m excited to have a strong network of peers to start college. Having my first research internship before the start of my freshman year has really made me feel like I am ahead of the game, and I have First2 to thank for that.” – Riley Butcher, student participant at West Virginia University 
“First2 has given me a safe environment to voice my own opinion and ask questions. In high school, I was an extremely reticent student because I was afraid to be wrong and self conscious of my speech impediment. As college approaches, I’ve become confident enough in myself to speak up because of my summer immersive experience with First2.” – Kian McChesney, student participant at West Virginia University
“This platform has allowed me to connect with like-minded individuals and provided a platform where we can work together to provide various opportunities for students. Working together, we can learn about grant writing processes, improve our teaching skills and learn how to support student success. I want to thank First2 Network for creating such an opportunity and providing a platform where faculty, students, scientists, professionals and all other members from different universities and backgrounds could come together and work.” – Dr. Sanish Rai, site lead at West Virginia University Institute of Technology 
Data and Findings
There was a 157 percent increase in the number of summer immersive experience interns, from 30 in Year 1 to 77 In Year 2. 53 Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles were completed by First2 faculty at partner institutions to test practices hypothesized to improve STEM persistence. It was found that interns had a stronger sense of STEM identity and school belonging, and improved research attitudes, knowledge, skills, and behaviors, following First2 Network internship participation.
GlobalMindED Panel
Catch up on our First2 Network panel at GlobalMindED’s discussion of Rural & First-Gen engagement in STEM. Two of our panelists identified as first-generation college students, Adam Smith from The Chemours Company and Coy Smith from Marshall University. Perspectives from students, faculty, industry, and support collectively addressed ways to improve successes in STEM, like touring the Chemours Facility, set up like a small town, was a mind-blowing experience but something that without First2 Network, students would never have had the opportunity to take. Watch here
GlobalMindED Student Speak
Five First2 students (Alisha Joseph, Coy Smith, Ethan Endres, Hannah Petronek, Nima Shahabshamir) participated in GlobalMindED Student Speak at the end of June with Dr. Nita Mosby Tyler, GlobalMindeED partner and founder of The Equity Project. 

GlobalMindED in conjunction with Every Learner Everywhere will give voice to first gen and/or diverse college students on a variety of issues including their digital experiences before and during COVID-19.  Their voices will ultimately be heard by business leaders, legislators, and university presidents as well as other students. The process involves a 90 minute zoom session with Dr. Tyler and 10 students at a time, ultimately interviewing 100 students across the country. Every Learner Everywhere is a partner of GlobalMindED and is funding this project as a subgrant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  We are honored to bring our First Gen and diverse student leaders to this table of national influence.
“My experience with the student speak panel was amazing! I think the most amazing part of this was getting to hear the stories of students across the nation and hearing their struggles and how they’ve triumphed. The people I met were mostly mothers and full time students at the same time as well as working full time jobs, which is quite a bit different than me, but I think that it was eye opening that those people exist and they are working so hard for a better future.” – Ethan Endres, Marshall University
“Many of the students mentioned their issues with the online learning and attending virtual classes. Some had difficulties to pay for a reliable internet or to purchase a laptop/computer which creates additional cost on top of the college expenses. I also shared my experience, as a first generation student like staying motivated, learned valuable skills by conducting research, and how my teammates and I had successfully finished our senior design projects using online applications due to the virus pandemic.” – Nima Shahibshamir from West Virginia University Institute of Technology
In the News
WVNews: First2 Network students Jordan Means, Coy Smith, and Abby Sine shared their experience of how first-generation college students are being impacted by COVID-19. Dr. Rita Rio, First2 Network club advisor at West Virginia University, also shared the perspective of a faculty member working with first-generation students during this challenging time. Read here

NSF INCLUDES Hub: First2 was mentioned in a blog post by Sylvia James, Deputy Assistant Director of Education and Human Resources Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Read here

NSF’s Report to the Nation: First2 was also mentioned in the National Science Foundation’s Report to the Nation. Read here

Neurite: Two First2 students were highlighted in the Neurite, the state’s STEM magazine for middle and high school students. Read here
Advisory Committee Meets
The First2 Network Leadership Team had an initial meeting to orient Committee Members to the Network and answer questions. Advisory Committee Members include: Anne Barth, executive director at TechConnect WV; Clayton Burch, state superintendent at the West Virginia Department of Education; Dr. Amelia Courtspresident and chief executive officer at the Education Alliance; Dr. Donna Hoylman Peduto, executive director at West Virginia Public Education Collaborative; David Mohr, consultant to education for the West Virginia House of Delegates; Robert Plymale, senator at the West Virginia Senate; Dr. Ulises Toledo, vice president for research and public service at West Virginia State University; and Dr. Sarah Tucker, chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia Community and Technical College System.
Virtual Conference 
The First2 Network Virtual Conference will be held October 8-10. This year’s theme will be “Engaging STEM Students in a Changing World.” More information on conference speakers and registration will be released in the coming weeks. 
Strategic Planning
After three retreats dedicated to developing a strategic plan, the First2 Network Leadership Team is proud to announce that a first draft of the plan is currently underway. We expect to have the plan completed for all of our members and partners to use as early as November. Thank you to all that participated. Your input is valuable and crucial to our success! Be on the lookout for the big reveal. 
Network Member Spotlight: Roxann Humbert 
STEM-themed cotton masks were generously handmade for 2020 Summer Immersive participants by Roxann Humbert, a member of the First2 Research Team, and her sister. Over 120 masks were provided to all participants, peer mentors and research mentors involved in the immersive experiences. Sean Harwell from Fairmont State University sorted and helped distribute the masks and t-shirts. Mike Fultz, Sue Ann Heatherly and other site leads did further behind-the-scenes.  
Got something to share with First2 Network? We want to know what others are doing around the state to advance STEM education at all levels. Tell us here