Establishing a New ISEE Chapter

ISEE welcomes new chapters and has some funding to help new chapters get started. For example, a recent grant from the NSF Astronomy Division (AST#1347767) will fund new chapters to enable graduate students and postdocs around the country to participate. These chapters can also fund their own participation, or work with ISEE to jointly pursue funding. Regardless of where the initial funding comes from, all ISEE Chapters should strive to ultimately become self-sustaining through their own funding streams. The “chapter” format allows for a range of participation levels and for organizations to try out the PDP to see if there is a demand and a good fit for the program without making a significant initial investment. Although there is a lot of flexibility, there are some key components of a successful ISEE Chapter, including:

PDP alumni in the region: From experience, ISEE has learned that it’s much easier to launch a new ISEE Chapter if there are resident PDP alumni available and interested in taking on leadership roles. PDP teaching teams are always led by an experienced participant (one that has already been through the program at least once), and one of the challenges for new chapters is in finding team leaders. If there are not alumni available to provide leadership at the Chapter site, ISEE is sometimes able to provide a returning participant to assist a new group in getting started. However, having one or more PDP alumni local to the Chapter site and interested in getting involved is extremely helpful.

Chapter Liaison: An individual in a permanent/long-term position who will champion chapter activities, ideally a PDP alum, is an important part of Chapters’ success. The liaison helps to find teaching venues, recruit participants, and build support within the Chapters’ organization(s). For example, it is important that graduate students’ advisors understand and value the program, and the liaison can play a key role in communicating the PDP’s merits and benefits to build this support. If the liaison is a veteran PDP alum (2 or more years of participation), he/she can also play an instructional role in the PDP, which has many advantages and can increase capacity and growth of the Chapter.

Pool of STEM graduate students and postdocs: The primary audience of the PDP is graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who are in a science or engineering field, and the program is designed to be a transformational experience for these early career participants. Professionals, such as faculty members, are also encouraged to participate and play a very important role in the program. The PDP usually strives for a participant ratio that is ⅔ to ¾ graduate students and postdocs, so it is important for Chapters to have a substantial pool to draw upon. A Chapter can include and/or be led by an undergraduate-serving institution in partnership with an institution that has an ample supply of graduate students and/or postdocs.

Appropriate teaching venues: All PDP participants put what they learn from the program into practice by teaching in an appropriate “teaching venue.” The ideal venue is one that one that supports and prioritizes a transformational teaching experience for PDP participants, is aimed at undergraduates, and has a short, concentrated time period. ISEE offers a program called PREP that can easily be implemented through a Chapter and makes an excellent teaching venue for PDP participants. PREPs are ~2-day workshops for undergraduates about to start a summer research/engineering experience, and provide an unconstrained learning environment in which PDP participants can teach and innovate. Technical summer schools, workshops, bridge programs, and short courses aimed at undergraduates or graduate students also make good teaching venues. The PDP is not designed to support K-12 classroom teaching, nor the professional development of other educators (e.g. teacher workshops). Under the right set of circumstances, PDP participants have been very successful in teaching in formal undergraduate courses (e.g. lab courses), and ISEE would be very happy to discuss lessons learned from many years of experience.

Interest in ISEE themes: ISEE focuses on three major themes that are threaded throughout the PDP: Inquiry, Diversity & Equity, and Assessment. Chapters should have a strong interest in these themes. For example, a teaching venue that is aimed at developing learners’ skills in authentic science or engineering practices, and teaching core scientific concepts, aligns well with the Inquiry theme. Venues that are primarily motivational or aimed more at increasing interest or exposure (what many would call “outreach programs”) are usually not a good fit as a PDP teaching venue. Alignment with the Diversity & Equity theme through programs or efforts aimed at supporting people of diverse backgrounds, through retention programs, or through other demonstrated commitment to inclusive practices are an important component of ISEE Chapters.

To establish a new Regional ISEE Chapter, contact the ISEE Director to discuss ideas. We particularly encourage PDP alumni to initiate and pursue Chapters. Establishing a Chapter requires a letter of support from the person who will be the Chapter Liaison that addresses the above components for success, and a funding mechanism for initial participation (in some cases, ISEE can be provide the initial funding). If a Liaison is not from an organization where graduate student and postdoc participants will be drawn from, ISEE would also like a brief letter from that organization stating that they support the participation of their graduate students and/or postdocs.