Strategy 3

Connect PCSPs with higher education admissions departments.

Work from the inside out: Reach out to PCSP parent institutions and other ecosystem members in higher education, and ask them who they know.

If any of your PCSPs are housed at colleges or universities, begin by working with these programs to connect with their admissions departments. Then, reach out to any other colleges, universities, or institutions in your ecosystem. Give them background on STEM PUSH work and explain that you’d like to learn more about their STEM programs’ admissions processes.

Also, ask those in your ecosystem for contacts or introductions to admissions officers and follow-up as needed. Request an introductory meeting between admissions officers, STEM departments, your PCSPs, and the STEM PUSH team.

The Pittsburgh Regional STE(A)M Ecosystem kicked off their higher education outreach by compiling a list of about 30 prospective higher education contacts. They used the friend-of-a-friend method to build their list, asking ecosystem members and other known contacts in higher education for their higher ed contacts. They invited these prospects to a virtual ecosystem happy hour, where members of the STEM PUSH team presented. They also added these contacts to their ecosystem email list, so they continued to receive news, updates, and invitations from the ecosystem.

The Pittsburgh team acknowledges that this was a difficult task; about one-third of their prospect list ultimately attended their event. Importantly, however, it demonstrated a need for the continued growth of their contact list and an investment of consistent time with contacts to build authentic relationships.
The Pittsburgh ecosystem also connected with several individuals at Carnegie Mellon University, home to one of their PCSPs. They began with discussions around equity work and possible collaboration, which resulted in the institution helping them source additional precollege STEM contacts and build relationships with other universities across Pennsylvania.
The California STEM Network leveraged its diverse membership to connect PCSPs to various admissions departments. They contacted several public colleges and universities that already belonged to the ecosystem, including San Francisco State University, San Jose State University, and California State University, East Bay. Though still in an early outreach phase, these connections hold promise for building deeper relationships between their PCSP and higher ed communities.
During their outreach to higher education contacts, the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative tailored partnership efforts to individual admission officers. They clearly managed expectations in initial STEM PUSH conversations and emphasized the shared benefits of engaging in equity-focused admissions work, highlighting how partnerships with PCSPs in underserved communities could help drive enrollment by increasing local students’ exposure to and interest in their institution.

Reach out early and often to other higher education institutions. Target specific contacts as able and keep conversations creative.

After contacting colleges and universities within your ecosystem, reach out to other institutions. Use your outreach efforts as a way to connect with those you haven’t worked with before. When communicating with new contacts, explain the goals of STEM PUSH work and request a preliminary meeting to discuss their admissions processes.

Keep these initial conversations broad, as they may be a springboard for related collaboration or convenings. Also, think about how new relationships could apply to or benefit your entire ecosystem.
The Pittsburgh Regional STE(A)M Ecosystem set a goal of connecting with nine higher education institutions beyond those already involved in STEM PUSH. They invited contacts to attend both individual meetings and a virtual ecosystem happy hour, which included a STEM PUSH introduction and update. To track their outreach, they also began a simple higher education contact database.
Twice a year, the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative convenes higher education institutions at a State of STEM event. PCSPs, colleges, and universities have an opportunity to share their perspectives on current STEM curriculum and professional development with each other. Thanks to their involvement in STEM PUSH, this event now includes a targeted conversation between programs and admissions officers, so PCSPs can better understand matriculation requirements.

Tap into regional, state, or interest-driven associations.

Consider expanding your higher education outreach beyond your local area. Are there regional or state-wide associations you could tap into to find additional college or university contacts? Similarly, you could search for higher education prospects based on interests related to STEM PUSH, such as institutions that employ culturally sustaining practices in STEM departments.
The Pittsburgh Regional STE(A)M Ecosystem is pursuing a meeting with the Western Pennsylvania Higher Ed Council. Connecting with the council will amplify the work of STEM PUSH more broadly across the state and introduce the underlying issues, goals, and processes of STEM PUSH to an audience that’s deeply invested in several college-related issues. Thus, the collaboration could attract key higher education stakeholders to STEM equity and admissions work.

Showcase – and manage – new relationships.

Report back to your ecosystem as you broker new connections between PCSPs, admissions departments, and the STEM PUSH Network. Highlight and celebrate new relationships.

The Pittsburgh Regional STE(A)M Ecosystem is considering hiring a role to lead their communications with university personnel. This position will help them establish multiple points of contact within institutions, even beyond admissions departments, thereby furthering equity-related goals. Plus, the role will help build the overall capacity of the ecosystem.

Connect with students who’ve participated in PCSPs to capture feedback and insight.

Connecting with program participants will help center student voice and experience in your STEM PUSH work. It will ensure those who have the most to gain from advances in equity are heard, represented, and involved in the change-making process.

Consider hosting a listening session with your PCSPs and their students or help your PCSPs develop a student feedback survey. Use these tools to capture first-hand, regional specific data, stories, and/or examples about equity in STEM. Where or how have Black and Brown students encountered roadblocks in their STEM learning or career pathways? How have PCSPs helped? Where could they do more?

You can help programs share and compare student experiences at the ecosystem level to gauge progress toward STEM PUSH goals. This information may also be helpful in related policy or funding conversations.

Hold refresher sessions with PCSPs.

As you progress through long-term equity work, periodically remind your PCSPs how you and your ecosystem can support them. Schedule a refresher anytime PCSP representation or leadership changes.

Provide opportunities for continued learning on anti-racism, student support, or other topics.

Support professional learning for your PCSPs and greater ecosystem in topics related to STEM PUSH. If possible, connect or host professional development on anti-racism in STEM, equitable student supports, affirming cultures, or other topics. Look to fellow ecosystem members for ideas, expertise, or facilitation.