Regional Collaborative Planning Grants

Due August 16, 2019

This is an invitation to teams of 2- and 4-year institutions to apply for a planning grant for potential Regional Collaboratives (RCs). The purpose of the RCs is to diversify the pool of graduate students and qualified professionals interested in pursuing a teaching career in STEM at 2-year colleges and strengthen the preparation of STEM faculty to teach the diverse student population at 2-year colleges. We anticipate awarding several of these planning grants in Fall 2019. The planning grants are a step towards establishing up to three new RCs, which will be selected in 2020 to join the current four RCs.


The need to increase the diversity of STEM faculty is acute in 2-year colleges. While the proportion of underrepresented students that these institutions serve continues to increase relative to 4-year institutions, there are comparatively few faculty members who share the racial and ethnic backgrounds of the students they teach. One change strategy is to intentionally prepare graduate students and qualified professionals from historically underrepresented groups (URG) to teach at 2-year colleges. At the same time we must increase the knowledge and skills of all faculty to create an inclusive learning environment for the diverse students at 2-year colleges. Such change can be accomplished regionally (and eventually, nationally) through local partnerships between 2-year colleges and 4-year universities.

Emergent research has suggested that many 2-year faculty members are employed in the same state where they completed their graduate education, albeit with varied career paths between graduate work and a 2-year faculty position; over half of current 2-year college STEM faculty with master’s degrees worked in other careers before taking their 2-year position, while almost three-quarters of faculty with doctorate recipients did so. The NSF INCLUDES Aspire Alliance has prototyped four Regional Collaboratives (RCs) in Iowa, Southern California, and two in Texas based on this rationale and research.

The purpose of this solicitation is to begin the expansion of Aspire RCs to more regions of the country. Specifically, this award will provide modest funds to support a small team to plan a new RC, and we estimate making 5 planning grant awards in this cycle. In Spring 2020, we anticipate releasing a solicitation for implementation grants to form new RCs in the Aspire Alliance, building especially from among those who received a planning grant.

We are requesting applications for planning proposals submitted by at least two individuals, one person from a 2-year college and one person from a 4-year university within the same region of the country, to 1 act as "co-leads" for this award. The co-leads would be responsible for beginning to plan the work of building partnerships, and/or taking advantage of already existing partnerships between 2-year colleges, 4-year universities, and local industries with the goal of increasing the diversity of STEM faculty in 2-year colleges in their region.

What is a Regional Collaborative (RC)?

A regional collaborative (RC) is a partnership of 2-year colleges, 4-year graduate-degree-granting institutions, and local industries, with strong relationships built among teams of faculty, staff, and leaders from these organizations. Each RC is founded on mutually beneficial, local relationships among people at varied institutions in a geographical region committed to pursuing the goals of the Regional Change initiative and the greater goals of the Aspire Alliance.

The goals of the Regional Change initiative are:

    1. To increase the number and diversify the pool of graduate students and qualified professionals interested in pursuing a teaching career in STEM at 2-year colleges.
    2. To expand and strengthen the preparation of current and future STEM faculty to teach the diverse student population at 2-year colleges.

Current RCs in the Aspire Alliance are making progress towards these goals through actions like the following efforts:

  • Conducting webinars in collaboration with the CIRTL Network, in which panels of 2-year faculty members discuss teaching careers at 2-year colleges;
  • Arranging for visit days where graduate students visit a local 2-year college and meet with college leaders and faculty;
  • Supporting mentored teaching practicums, in which URG graduate students are matched with a 2-year college faculty in their discipline, observe classes at the 2-year college, and talk with a faculty member about teaching;
  • Providing Aspire fellowships, which are mentored adjunct positions at 2-year colleges for URG graduate students;
  • Hosting workshops from national disciplinary societies that are dedicated to 2-year college teaching (e.g, AMATYC , 2YC3 ); and
  • Partnering with national organizations (ATD and NISOD) dedicated to 2-year college faculty professional development to increase the use of good practices in e.g. adjunct support.

While the current RCs are situated either within a single state or regions of a single state, we do not view such boundaries as the only model for defining a “region.” Our experience and program data demonstrate that RCs work well if a significant number of 2-year college faculty come from local graduate programs, that the distances are short enough for the people leading the RCs to meet and get to know each other, and that graduate students can travel to meet teaching mentors at 2-year colleges. Travel to mentoring experiences is currently being met in multiple ways; if the drive is several hours, then graduate students visit the 2-year college in one trip for multiple days; shorter distances make it possible for multiple, shorter duration visits.

The RC initiative is one of several of the Aspire Alliance, supported by the National Science Foundation. Aspire seeks to increase the diversity of STEM faculty across the whole higher education landscape. It has three highly-integrated change initiatives: (1) Institutional Change, in which individual universities and 2-year colleges work in cohorts to analyze and improve local, systemic barriers, e.g. climate or hiring practices; (2) Regional Change (this solicitation); and (3) National Change, which brings together national professional societies across various disciplines, regions, and institutions to strengthen their initiatives to increase the diversity of STEM faculty. These three initiatives are working together using the tools of collective impact to make progress on this complex, multi-faceted challenge.

Expansion of RCs

The Aspire Regional Change team is embarking on a two-stage national expansion of its RC model. In this first stage, in Summer 2019, we are inviting teams from a variety of regions in the U.S. to plan a new RC. In the second stage, in Spring 2020, we will invite planning grant recipients to submit an application for an RC implementation grant. The implementation grant applications will be due in Fall 2020.

The rationale for the two-stage process is that, in the experience of the current RCs, successful RC formation takes time to develop. In particular, during an earlier pilot project, we learned that it takes substantial time to engage in discussions with key stakeholders about how to intentionally support future faculty so they may learn about and prepare for 2-year college teaching careers. In addition, most conversations between 2-year and 4-year institutions are focused on the transfer of undergraduates between the institutions.

This planning grant supports the purposeful connection-making between 2-year and 4-year faculty members, administrators, staff members, industry partners, and other organizations within regions. We expect that these partners will spend up to one year discussing the two goals (see above) of the RC initiative, and what it would take to achieve those goals within their region on a longer-term basis. It is not expected that all of these connections will be in place before submitting the planning grant. The major part of the work during the planning grant will be building these relationships. The implementation grant proposals due in Fall 2020 will require approval of institutional leaders but that is not needed to submit the planning grant.

Outcomes of a Planning Grant

By the end of their planning grant, each team will be able to submit a successful RC implementation. By the end of their planning grant, each team will be able to submit a successful RC implementation grant. The RFP for RC implementation grants will be released in Spring 2020 with a due date in late Summer/early Fall 2020.

Funding Amount and Duration

$5,000 per award for one year (September 1, 2019-August 31, 2020).

Application Instructions

  • Submit using this Qualtrics link
    • You will be asked to upload a single .pdf file with all of the completed application responses.
    • Please keep total application length to a limit of 4 pages, using single-spaced Times New Roman 11 pt font. Applicants have flexibility within those page limits regarding the length of answers to questions in each section.
    • An example application can be found here.
  • Applications are due by 5pm PDT August 16, 2019.
  • Reviewers will only consider information contained within the text of the application itself, within the allowed page limits. Please do not include any additional attachments, refer to external reports or documents, or embed hyperlinks within the application, as these materials will not be reviewed.
  • If we receive more than one application from the same general region, we will contact the applicants about a possible merger or collaborative proposal.

Please direct questions to the Aspire Regional Initiative Co-Leads: Dr. Craig Ogilvie, Morrill Professor of Physics and Assistant Dean, Graduate College, Iowa State University, , (515) 294-2219; or Dr. Jamey Anderson, Department Chair, Physical Sciences, Santa Monica College, , (310) 434-3180.

Application and Notification Timeline

  • June 24, 2019, 1 pm CDT Application FAQ Webinar via Zoom, Join through this link or dial-in by phone: +1 408 638 0968 or +1 646 558 8656 Meeting ID: 666 689 638
  • August 16, 2019 Applications Due at 5pm PDT via a Qualtrics link
  • August 23, 2019 Notification to Institutions, Acceptance by August 29
  • August 30, 2019 Announce Recipients
  • September 1, 2019-August 31, 2020 Award Duration

Application Selection Criteria

  1. Reason(s) why the planning grant team is interested in building a new RC in their region. 5%
    • Description of why the team is interested in planning a RC
    • Description of planning grant team composition, including co-leaders from a 2-year college and a 4-year university
  2. Evidence of existing connections between 2-year colleges, 4-year institutions, and local including projects that work to increase the success of underrepresented students. 20%
  3. Preliminary sketch of how an eventual RC during an implementation phase (starting in Fall 2020, i.e. after one year of the planning grant) might try to make progress on the two goals of the regional change project. 5%
  4. Description of how you will develop your RC implementation grant proposal during the planning grant process (e.g., meetings/discussions to understand local needs, issues, information gathering). Plans would include the frequency of meetings, what type of discussions will be necessary, and indication of leaders of 2-year colleges, 4-year institutions, industry and other partners will be engaged. It is not expected that all these relationships will be in place when writing the planning grant. The major part of the work during the planning grant will be building these relationships. 35%
  5. Complementary to existing RCs (i.e., geography, types of 2-year colleges and universities) and the likely scale and scope of the RC. 20%
  6. Collaborations/partnerships in support of building a more inclusive and diverse faculty in your region (e.g., links to the Aspire Alliance ; HBCUs, MSIs, PWIs; other INCLUDES DDLPs or Alliances ), or Aspire’s national partners ). 15%