Duke Invests in Community-Engaged Research to Increase STEM Access

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diverse students take part in STEM research

Duke University is taking action to advance racial and social justice by investing in community-engaged research. The private university in Durham, N.C., recently allocated funding from its endowment to support seven faculty projects that will examine and address issues relevant to the surrounding population. 

In partnership with local representatives, the Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs identified five key areas of research: food security and nutrition, housing affordability and related infrastructure, early childhood and school readiness, college and career readiness, and nonprofit capacity. 

“Durham boasts important community assets in each of these domains, but local leaders see further investment and sensible policy as crucial to expanding equitable opportunity and sustaining resilient neighborhoods,” states an announcement from Duke’s Office for Faculty Advancement.

All of the projects will touch on one or more of the research areas, and four will also focus on promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and career opportunities to underrepresented students.

One research initiative is Diversifying the STEM Workforce by Promoting Positive College and Career Outcomes Among Local High School Students from Systematically Excluded Identities, led by Meagan Dunphy-Daly, PhD, associate dean of experiential education and undergraduate research and lecturing fellow in the Marine Science and Conservation Marine Lab. The project will examine whether providing peer mentorship, experiential learning, and college application workshops makes a positive impact on marginalized students’ readiness for STEM undergraduate courses.

Another project, Hello, Ethi{CS}: Codesigning Ethics-Centered Computational Education to Broaden Participation in College and Career Readiness, spearheaded by Aria Chernik, PhD, associate professor in the Social Science Research Institute, will study how using open design in computing education can help educators and students — particularly those who are Black, female identifying, and lower income — think about technology in a more ethical and socially just way.

Additional STEM-related studies included in the initiative are Inspiring the Next Generation of STEM Learners, and Teaching for Hope During Climate Uncertainty: Working with Teachers to Coproduce Climate Resilience Curriculum for Middle Schoolers and Their Communities.

This article was published in our September 2023 issue.