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FIU awarded $7 million grant from the NSF to co-lead UNIDOS Center for Community Collaboration

FIU awarded $7 million grant from the NSF to co-lead UNIDOS Center for Community Collaboration

September 19, 2023 at 10:22am

Florida International University (FIU) has been selected to co-lead the UNIDOS Center for Community Collaboration, an ambitious project funded by a $7 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
FIU will collaborate with other institutions that are leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in a groundbreaking effort to enhance STEM education and STEM education research within Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).
UNIDOS will be housed at the nation’s largest Hispanic Serving, doctoral granting institution, and be led in partnership with four other institutions: Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, California State University, Sacramento, the University of Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras, and the University of Texas at El Paso.
“This transformative initiative recognizes FIU’s commitments to our students, our community, and higher education," said Elizabeth M. Béjar, provost, executive vice president, and chief operating officer at FIU. "The UNIDOS Center will amplify the impact of HSIs, fostering collaboration and innovation that will ultimately benefit students and educators. Through this work, FIU will continue to advance STEM education and develop practices that can be scaled throughout the country.”
Hispanic Serving Institutions play a pivotal role in promoting the participation and success of historically underserved groups in STEM fields. The UNIDOS Center for Community Collaboration aims to leverage the collective strength of HSIs by coordinating and amplifying their efforts, fostering collaboration, and encouraging innovation within the HSI community.
Representatives from the Diana Natalicio Institute for Hispanic Student Success, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Excelencia in Education, and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) will serve as steering board members for the Center.
“HACU is thrilled to work with FIU on this transformative initiative to coordinate and amplify the work of Hispanic-Serving Institutions," said HACU President and CEO Antonio R. Flores. "HSIs are invaluable to the communities they serve and the UNIDOS Center will foster collaboration and innovation that leads to higher education success for students and educators across the nation.”
This initiative will make it possible for faculty, staff and students from HSIs across the country to learn from one another, build on their individual successes, and establish new partnerships that drive advancements in HSI-focused STEM education.  One way that UNIDOS will do this is through a series of “Innovation Sandbox” workshops that allow educators and researchers from across the country to develop new partnerships as they collaborate on funding proposals and plans for new educational initiatives. UNIDOS will also develop a website to facilitate knowledge and resource sharing.  The initiative also will provide professional development opportunities for HSI faculty, staff, and students, with a focus on areas such as proposal writing, teaching enhancement, and leadership skills.
The UNIDOS Center represents a significant step forward in the evolution of STEM education within HSIs and reflects a commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration, with faculty from engineering, physics and biology leading the center.
The UNIDOS Center is led by:

  • Monica Cardella, professor of engineering and computing education, FIU
  • Isis Artze-Vega, provost, Valencia College
  • Kelly McDonald, professor of biological sciences, California State University, Sacramento
  • Juan S. Ramirez Lugo, associate professor of biology, the University of Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras
  • Meagan Kendall, associate professor of engineering education and leadership, the University of Texas at El Paso
  • Rocio Benabentos, associate director of the STEM Transformation Institute, FIU
  • Bryan Dewsbury, associate professor of biology and associate director of the STEM Transformation Institute, FIU
  • Geoff Potvin, associate professor of physics and director of the STEM Transformation Institute, FIU