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Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering Report from NSF

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Earlier this year, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, a division of the National Science Foundation, released the 2017 Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering report. This formal report, now in the form of a digest, is issued every two years and examines the degree to which women, people with disabilities, and people who identify as black, Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native are underrepresented in Science and Engineering (S&E) education and employment. 

The digest is best read online, where an interactive format invites readers to explore trends in greater depth through detailed data tables and graphics. Technical notes and other online resources aid in interpreting the data. Data tables are also available as both PDFs or Excel files, allowing for easy viewing, printing or downloading for further analysis.

Key findings suggest that women have reached a state of relative parity with men in academic achievement, but not as part of the S&E workforce. As the digest indicates, since the late 1990s, women have earned about half of S&E bachelor's degrees. However, their representation varies widely by field, ranging from 70% in psychology to 18% in computer sciences, for example. In addition, at every educational level, underrepresented minority women earn a higher proportion of degrees than their male counterparts. White women, however, earn fewer degrees than their male counterparts.

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Former Trucker's Grit Leads to Biotech Career Success

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Perseverance and civility are among the soft skills that Mica A. Welsh (left foreground) brought to Forsyth Tech when she switched careers. Welsh's employer, Patti Shugart, chief operating officer of Carolina Liquid Chemistries (right), explained at the 2016 ATE Principal Investigators Conference that she focuses on job candidates' soft skills during interviews. (Photo by James Tkatch)

Driving a semitrailer truck cross country for a dozen years helped Mica A. Welsh tackle challenging math problems as a 44-year-old biotechnology student.

"If you kill a truck when you are trying to turn through an intersection, you've got a choice to make ... You can either get out of the truck and cry, try to find your way home. Or you can push the clutch in and re-start the truck and go on down the road," Welsh said.

Taking her first chemistry class at Forsyth Technical Community College (Forsyth Tech) in 2004 while still using oxygen as she recovered from a serious respiratory illness, Welsh wasn't sure she was smart enough to pursue a new career in biotechnology, but she was intrigued and determined.

"I was the first one there; the last one to leave. And I would come by the [professor's] office and ask questions, and really push it. I wasn't giving up," said Welsh, who is now regulatory affairs manager at Carolina Liquid Chemistries in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Stubbornness—that's what Welsh calls it—helped her earn associate in applied science, bachelor's and master's degrees.

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Previewing the 2017 NISOD International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence

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For nearly 40 years, the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) has served the higher education community by providing community and technical college faculty, staff, and administrators with programs and resources that facilitate teaching and learning excellence. In preparation of the 2017 NISOD’s annual conference, we asked NISOD Executive Director Edward J. Leach to share some fun facts, details, and information about this “must-attend” event for community and technical college educators.

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MATEC Carves Out Niche as Webinar Host

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Tim Suchomski provides webinar support in MATEC's control room at the Maricopa Community College District in Phoenix, Arizona.

In a classic entrepreneurial move, MATEC NetWorks responded to declining attendance at its in-person professional development programs by trying webinars. These experiments with the emerging Internet-based seminars instructed faculty inwellother new technologies.

That was 2010. Early webinar systems were awkward to operate and the software licenses were expensive. But as MATEC's team worked out the kinks in its manufacturing education-oriented programs with National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education support, it found audiences for its content and clients for its webinar services.

MATEC, officially the MATEC NetWorks National Resource Center, now serves as producer and host of about 50 webinars annually for various ATE centers and projects, the American Association of Community Colleges, Arizona State University, and the 10 colleges of the Maricopa Community College District. (See list of collaborators and links to their webinars at the end of the article.)

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Working with Stakeholders: Sustaining Effective Collaboration

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Members of the ATE community devote an incredible amount of time and effort to identifying potential partners, developing contacts and relationships, and cultivating these partnerships to sustain them over the long term. Feedback from key stakeholders, collaborators, industry partners, and colleagues from across the ATE community can provide you with many benefits and perspectives. So whether you are looking for help as you revamp curriculum, cultivating partners to write a new proposal, or considering how to tie your ATE project or center goals more closely to your institution’s mission, it pays to think about how best to engage collaborators in your ATE related work. 

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Mentor-Connect Builds STEM Faculty Leaders While Demystifying NSF Application Process

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Barry Bates, program coordinator of bioscience technology at Atlanta Technical College, used the tour of the New Orleans BioInnovation Center during the Mentor-Connect Workshop to gather information for the proof-of-concept bioincubator he is developing.

Nailing her two-minute, "elevator" speech at the Mentor-Connect 2017 Technical Assistance and Grant Writing Workshop boosted Lauren Dickens' confidence.

"Putting us in a position that is simulating that kind of speech or talk in front of a board, chamber of commerce, whatever, I think it is really valuable [for] developing community leadership, industry leadership, as well as at our school," said Dickens, an assistant professor of economics at St. Charles Community College.

Dickens, who is also interim dean of business, science, education, math, and computer science, anticipates she may soon make her first presentation to the college's board about what she and two colleagues learned during the Mentor-Connect workshop in New Orleans from February 1 to 3.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for five years Mentor-Connect has provided mentors and technical assistance to help 20 two-year college teams annually prepare competitive grant proposals. Mentor-Connect's systematic grant development process also aims to cultivate STEM educators' leadership skills.

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The ATE Blogosphere—Projects and Centers in the News

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When it comes to sharing information about the ATE community and its dedication to improving the education of America’s technical workforce, blogs offer a great platform to engage and inform others. Over the past few weeks, a number of blog posts covering inspirational stories, detailed research, and personal experiences have appeared. Below are a few that we hope will inspire further reading, and maybe a little bit of writing of your own:

Preparing Students for Information Technology Careers: The Role of Career Technical Education

Jill Denner, project PI of Beyond Marketing to Stealth Recruitment: Creating ICT Pathways from High School to College and Work for Underrepresented Groups, was recently featured on the ETR etc. blog. In this post, Denner discusses the project’s research findings along with strategies to boost career technical education (CTE) pathways in IT fields. There is also a link to three Tip Sheets designed to help initiate educator, administrator, and industry partnerships.

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Project Tests Ways to Boost Technical Students' Spatial Skills

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McHenry County College students Joseph Ignoffo and Alex Garcia work with snap cubes during a spatial visualization skills workshop.

Researchers who have demonstrated that it is possible to improve students' spatial visualization skills, which are key for success in some STEM courses and careers, are testing their curriculum with community college students.

The first 95 students who completed the non-credit spatial skills course at Del Mar College, McHenry County College, and Tidewater Community College earned on average, one full letter grade higher (a grade of B) in the introductory STEM course they took than students who qualified for the spatial skills booster, but opted not to take it (and averaged a grade of C).

PDFs of the lesson plans and other content are available at  http://www.higheredservices.org/spatial-course-mini-lectures/

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Del Mar College Student Wins AAAS Poster Competition, Presents Research in Qatar

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John F. Ramirez, a Del Mar College student, was among 150 undergraduates from around the world and 62 Qatar University students who participated in the First World Congress on Undergraduate Research in Qatar in November 2016.

When John F. Ramirez enrolled in Del Mar College the week before classes started in August 2014, the only open Biology I course was highlighted as the "phages" section.

Ramirez had no idea what phages were. But he figured if the labs were too complicated for him, the instructor would let him know it. Instead of washing out, Ramirez excelled with the encouragement of Professor J. Robert Hatherill. Students in the "phages" section learn basic biology concepts by conducting research on bacteriophages, which are viruses that live on bacteria.

During 2016 Ramirez's independent research on "interesting tidbits" about bacteriophages earned him a first place in the cellular and molecular biology category of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) student poster competition. In a separate competition, Ramirez was selected to attend The First World Congress on Undergraduate Research in Qatar in November.

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What’s Going on in Nanorobotics?

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Over the past few months, there have been a number of developments in the already fascinating world of robotics.

On October 6th, three European scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work developing nanoscale machines – the world’s smallest robots. These molecule-sized robots are manipulated through the conversion of chemical energy into mechanical energy. Many believe that nano-machines may have important implications in a variety of fields, including medicine.

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