Social Justice Through Community Outreach: The STEM Diversity Roundtable and Summit

Published in:

A National Symposium

November 20–21, 2015

New York University
Washington, D.C.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are viewed as fundamental elements in the preparation of our next generation. This is evidenced by President Obama’s goal of “moving our nation from the middle to the top of the pack in math and science education” and his focus on (a) hiring additional STEM teachers; (b) enhancing STEM literacy so students can think critically in key subjects; (c) improving the quality of instruction to help U.S. students perform competitively with those in other nations; and (d) expanding STEM education and career opportunities for women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups (The White House, 2010).

On Long Island, where a high-technology economy exceeds those of most regions of the country, employers in need of workers with preparation in the STEM disciplines report shortages of applicants with the required education and skills. The N-13 Gap Report, prepared by the Long Island Forum for Technology (2009), surveyed a large number of employers who reported current and projected shortages of talent to fill positions in advanced manufacturing and other high-skilled jobs. The report also focused on the educational and workforce issues of the region, including the K-12 pipeline for technology workers.

It is clear that this shortage of graduates educated in the STEM areas cannot be fulfilled on Long Island without attention to the significant proportion of schools that are under-performing, especially when the performance of students in such schools is usually the most deficient in the STEM disciplines. The focus of Farmingdale State College STEM Diversity Roundtable and Summit is to provide research and to bring together stakeholders to address barriers and seek solutions in educating students in underserved schools on Long Island.

Farmingdale State College (FSC) has established several programs to support underrepresented K-12 populations. These activities include:

Roundtable and Center for Research on Diversity in STEM Disciplines

The Roundtable and Center for Research on Diversity in STEM Disciplines, located at Farmingdale State College, integrates plans of action for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education on Long Island, focusing on the populations underrepresented in those disciplines. This initiative aspires to develop a network with the Brookhaven National Laboratory Portal to Discovery to connect people, policies, programs, and partnerships across the state with like-minded people in other states. Activities of the Roundtable and Research Center integrate the efforts of other institutions, and focus on barriers to effective STEM education in schools with underrepresented populations and low participation in the STEM disciplines. Research results will be applied to seek solutions to problem areas. Families, community groups, businesses, and government agencies are engaged in conversation related to program development and implementation. The focus is to promote STEM education within underrepresented populations by having a seamless Pre-K-12 pipeline, including access to college and career success.

The Roundtable and Center support the broader goal of ensuring prosperity for all and reducing educational disparities. The STEM Diversity Satellite at FSC exposes students and parents to the STEM industries and professions in several ways. We look to carry out research on barriers to entry into the STEM disciplines and provide engagement opportunities early in students’ school experience. The center has devised means to engage and encourage parents’ involvement to support the pursuit of study in STEM disciplines by their children. This is especially needed for minority and low-income students who lack connections to role models with whom they can identify, such as women and minorities now in the STEM career professions.

STEM Diversity Summit

Founded in 2011, the STEM Diversity Summit was created to increase diversity and inclusion within the STEM disciplines by introducing K-12 students from underrepresented communities to STEM careers. On March 31, 2011, FSC hosted the first STEM Diversity Summit, “Advancing Diversity Through Collaboration and Community.” The Summit brought together STEM advocates from the State University of New York (SUNY), the Regents, the Empire State Learning Network, national NASA education experts, local and regional businesses, higher education representatives, and students to highlight needed reform in the areas of STEM education and careers. A total of 413 individuals attended. Attendees described the STEM Diversity Summit as a groundbreaking event in the world of higher education.

FSC President Hubert Keen gave the welcoming remarks and introduced the challenge, thus setting the tone for the summit. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and Board of Regents member Roger Tilles spoke to the students and made the day special. Role models and keynote speakers Martha Daniel, Founder, President and CEO of Information Management Resources, Inc., and Leland Melvin, former NASA astronaut, were inspirational and challenged the students to develop a purpose in life through education and to live their dreams. The students’ presentations were phenomenal and professional. These are students who otherwise would not have been able to celebrate their achievement and successes.

This historical first summit laid the foundation for future successful events. Each year attendance and research presentations have grown to the point of needing a larger venue for the event.

On March 20, 2015, the Fifth Annual STEM Diversity Summit was celebrated and drew over 1100 attendees. K-12 and higher education have come to realize the growing and critical importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in enriching human experience and enhancing economic growth. The STEM Diversity Roundtable and Summit have trailblazed the engagement of students, from a diversity of backgrounds and achievement levels, in STEM education. The unprecedented collaboration, community-building, and support of multiple parties, including families, community groups, schools, colleges/universities, businesses, industries, and governmental agencies, have tremendously contributed to the engagement of students in the Farmingdale State College STEM Diversity Summit. State and private funding has enabled the Center to expand into hosting a Summer Academy for community agencies and school districts.

Growth Participation Farmingdale State College Annual STEM Diversity Summits

STEM Summer Academy

Building upon Farmingdale State College’s Science Technology Program (STEP) for middle and high school students, the Summer Academy exposes students from underserved districts to aviation, robotics, health technologies, hydrogen fuel cell purification, biomass energy, and hydrogen electro-chemical separation. The Center provides space for the program, and leverages funds from multiple grant sources. These grants also provide funding to hire a part-time lab assistant to manage the STEM A+ Mobile Lab. Additionally, the STEM A+ Mobile Lab is used in the community STEM Summer Academy. Transportation is always a challenge for students to attend programs out of their communities and to the college locations. Last summer, the Mobile Lab was transported to the Family Life Center in Wyandanch, so that students could have full access for their summer STEM program.

Each summer the college hosts many summer activities. Most notable was the collaboration between Huntington USFD middle school and the STEM Summer Academy of 2015. Below are comments from Ms. Donna Moro, District STEM Coach:

This summer, 63 Huntington Middle School students were inspired and excited to learn about the opportunities that exist at Farmingdale State College. Each day our students arrived on campus, they were intrigued with a new experience that allowed them to make a tangible connection between their education and possible future careers in the areas of STEM. I received many comments from students and parents about the impact this program has made on their future. I am attaching some photos of our students. I am sure you can see the sense of wonder on their faces!

Below are highlights of STEM Diversity Summit and STEM Summer Academy activities:

The Roundtable and Summit support the broader goal of ensuring prosperity for all and reducing educational disparities
STEM diversity strategies
Over 3200 students, teachers, administrators, business and community members served since 2010
Tangible experience making connection
STEM diversity partners and supporters: other partners include the K-12 communities
A+ Mobile STEM Lab Loan to Underserved Districts and Aligning Curriculum with STEM Activities
Imagine your future
Engaging in team project
Collaboration with K-12 STEM schools expose students to aviation
Incubation of Summer STEM Academies hands-on learning with hydrogen fuel cell purification, biomass energy electrochemical separation

The concept of applied (hands-on) learning in engaging and inspiring the K-12 population is well documented. The STEM Diversity Summit and Summer Academy are true indicators of such relevance. Learning by doing and experiencing in the real world context is one of the driving forces of developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Students also come to appreciate the value of teamwork and effective communication.

Farmingdale State College is a comprehensive undergraduate college within the State University of New York (SUNY) system. It is located on Long Island, NY, 25 miles east of New York City. Over 8,100 undergraduate students attend FSC. 93% of the students are commuters. 74% of the students are enrolled full-time. The student body is 58% male and 42% female. 56% of all FSC students receive some form of governmental financial aid. 38% of the students self-identify as minority.

Social justice—encompassing principles of equity, opportunity, and non-discrimination—is central to FSC’s mission. The College is making a concerted, multifaceted effort to serve disadvantaged students and to provide them with opportunities for learning, achievement, and success. FSC initiatives take place in the classroom, through co-curricular activities, and by means of outreach that serves and engages the larger community.


Long Island Forum for Technology Sector Intermediary and Project Manager. (2009, February 27). Regional economic transformation strategies, through a sector based approach 13-N gap report. Retrieved from

The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2010, September 27). President Obama announces goal of recruiting 10,000 STEM teachers over the next two years. Statements and releases. Retrieved from

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Spring 2016: Advancing Social Justice from Classroom to Community