Over the last decade and a half, I have been passionately engaged in studying, developing, and assessing learning communities. This work has spanned from the social sciences, community engagement, education, and in my role at Carnegie Mellon University – my focus has been robotics, AI, and ML.  The program that I now Co-direct – the Robotics Institute Summer Scholars (RISS), is one that I helped to launch, fund, and shape.   

I have had amazing colleagues and partners, but I have also faced pushback and a lack of interest. Sustainability has been a challenge.  We see evidence and have a high level of agreement that undergraduate research is a high-impact practice (AAC&U; NSF).  But are we capturing the full potential of undergraduate research programs?  If not, then why not?  What do we do next? 

Figure 1: Growing and Diversifying the Domestic Graduate Pipeline

Note. NSF Computer and Information Science and Engineering | Advisory Committee Report 2019 (DesJardin & Libeskind-Hadas, 2021)

I’ll be sharing perspectives from colleagues, community & political leaders, students, and friends. Let’s consider:

Does it matter if US students are represented in graduate programs in STEM?  Why or why not?

What impact does this have on the strength of the 1) national research pipeline, 2) our nation’s innovation potential, and 3) US global leadership & competitiveness?