National Science Foundation
The Regional Alliances for Persons with Disabilities: 15,000 Students Across 14 States Engaged in STEM Education
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Environmental science students at the University of Southern Maine.

Credit: Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh, University of Southern Maine
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With support from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research in Disabilities Education (RDE) program, four regional alliances were created to increase the quality and quantity of students with disabilities completing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees in 14 states: Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Over 6,000 primary, secondary, community college and university students with disabilities have been served through these projects, with over 9,000 students who do not have disabilities benefiting from the inclusive educational and research activities. These four alliances, which are based at the University of Southern Maine, New Mexico State University, the University of Washington, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, include networks of regional academic institutions partnering with industry, government, and national research labs to provide comprehensive educational and research experiences for students. International collaborations are also taking place with academic and government partners in Japan, Korea, Singapore and India.

The regional alliances have provided job shadowing experiences, research internships, or industry externships for over 150 high school and college-age students with disabilities. The alliances place students with disabilities in IBM, NASA, and university nanotechnology labs that offer research and mentoring experiences, which open doors to career paths in STEM. The alliances are collecting data to track the progress of students with disabilities as they transition from high school to college, from college to graduate school, and from graduate school to the STEM workforce. The multi-state student tracking system targets the key educational, research, and mentoring experiences contributing to the success of students with disabilities in STEM careers.

In addition to working with students who have disabilities, the RDE alliances also educate teachers and parents about educational supports for students pursuing STEM education and careers. The Regional Alliance for Science, Engineering and Mathematics Squared (RASEM2) located at New Mexico State University, funded over 80 RASEM2 projects for teacher training and for students in K-12 schools, as well as for students at 2-year and 4-year post-secondary institutions. Another alliance, the Northwest Alliance for Access to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM), based at the University of Washington, engaged over 1100 K-12 educators and parents in training presentations during the fourth year of project funding. AccessSTEM information was also disseminated to over 4300 educators and parents at professional and educational meetings.

With the success of effective mentoring, educational, research, training and internship programs provided by the four RDE regional alliances to students, faculty, and the community-at-large, these projects continue to successfully broaden the participation of students with disabilities in STEM.

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Research in Disabilities Education (RDE) Regional Alliances.

Credit: Mark Leddy, National Science Foundation
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An AccessSTEM student participant.

Credit: Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington
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RASEM2 student participants.

Credit: William McCarthy, New Mexico State University
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