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Icon for: Katherine Nielsen


University of California, San Francisco

Bay Area Regional Collaboration to Expand and Strengthen STEM (RECESS)

NSF Awards: 1649380

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Undergraduate, Graduate

The Regional Collaboration to Strengthen and Expand STEM (RECESS) is a collective impact pilot initiative of cross-sector organizations representing school districts, government, employers, community groups, students and families in San Francisco and Alameda Counties, that seeks to align efforts across the counties to broaden participation (BP) in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and careers for historically underrepresented youth and their families - especially women, African Americans and Latinos.


African-American, Latino, and female students are far outnumbered by their White, Asian and male counterparts in terms of participation in STEM fields. The roots of these disparities begin in preschool and continue through graduate school and employment.

To date, there have been many local efforts in San Francisco and Alameda Counties to address BP in STEM, but there has not been a comprehensive regional approach.


RECESS will constitute a single, unified STEM continuum effort from preschool through graduate school and career. Our modified collective impact model and participatory action research approach engages cross-sector stakeholders, youth and families from the target population groups as partners in “moving the needle” of change and increasing their participation in STEM.

Envisioned Impact

RECESS has high potential for national scale as a cross-sector, regional collective impact initiative addressing preK-20+ pathways to enable student success in STEM from historically underrepresented groups. RECESS will also propose/test the utility of the collective impact model and cross-sector collaboration for adaptation/use in other projects aiming to mobilize communities concerning STEM participation.

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Discussion from the 2017 STEM for All Video Showcase (6 posts)
  • Icon for: Marcelo Worsley

    Marcelo Worsley

    Assistant Professor
    May 15, 2017 | 10:14 p.m.

    The Bay Area sounds like a great place to do this type of work. Can you share a little bit about how the different partnering organizations were selected? Additionally, is there training providing to the different organizations, and what type of support system is put in place to maintain communication between the different organizations.

  • Icon for: Katherine Nielsen

    Katherine Nielsen

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 04:11 p.m.

    Thanks for your comments and questions. The project is led by UC San Francisco and the Alameda County Office of Education and thus our focus is on those two counties - SF and Alameda. We are focusing on supporting high school science learners from underrepresented backgrounds to successfully transition to postsecondary environments.

    In regards to partner organizations, we are working with Paul Born of the Tamarack Institute and are using his Top 100 exercise (http://tamarackcci.ca/files/the_top_100_partner...) to develop a list of top 100 people and organizations in our community that could help us realize the change we want to see. From this Top 100 list we are then identifying the Top 20 prospects, encompassing individuals that will give use some quick partnerships, including those we know well and are sure to join if asked as well as those with significant influence. Paul Born is providing technical assistance and capacity building to partners related to collective impact and community engagement.

    Currently our communication infrastructure includes in-person meetings, conference calls, and email communication. We use Asana for staff team and working group collaboration. We will also soon be launching a monthly newsletter. We are in the process of designing additional tools for online engagement and have looked at a crowdsourcing tool called IdeaWave: http://blink.ucsd.edu/sponsor/scspoc/ideawave/index.html.

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Dawn O'Connor
  • Icon for: Michael Lach

    Michael Lach

    Director of STEM Policy and Strategic Initiatives
    May 16, 2017 | 10:23 p.m.

    Wow, seems very fun and thoughtful. I'm curious about the collective impact model and what that looks like--how to you organize yourselves to move progress forward across multiple organizations?

  • Icon for: Katherine Nielsen

    Katherine Nielsen

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 12:51 p.m.

    Thanks Michael. RECESS seeks to bring together a wide spectrum of stakeholders with one common goal: increasing the participation of populations that have been historically underrepresented in STEM careers. To do so, we are relying on the CI Model with its three stages (initiating action, organizing for impact, and sustaining action) while also integrating promising practices from other collaborative models:

    1. Maintaining trust through equal positioning of all RECESS members, particularly community members.
    2. Providing formal and informal means for continuous communication to build trust among group members.
    3. Employing participatory practices to address power imbalances among members and ensure diverse representation and engagement.


  • Icon for: Lauren Amos

    Lauren Amos

    Associate Director
    May 18, 2017 | 06:41 p.m.

    I directed a study a number of years ago that found, at the postsecondary level, that the biological and agricultural sciences are the only STEM disciplines in which women have reached parity with men and that the gender gap persists in engineering and computer science despite efforts to attract and retain female students in these fields. Which STEM fields seem to be the least attractive to your female students and for which are you beginning to realize success?

  • Icon for: Katherine Nielsen

    Katherine Nielsen

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 06:51 p.m.

    Thanks for the question Lauren. Our NSF INCLUDES RECESS project is just a few months in and we do not have data from our work on the attractiveness of different STEM fields for women. That said, and as you note, there is a strong literature base documenting the gender gap in engineering and computer science.

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.