Skip to main content

Researchers Develop Novel Way to Assess DEI Programs

November 28, 2022
Jue Wu
Jue Wu's research finds benefits with “change mapping.”

A systematic planning tool called “change mapping” can help analyze whether complex diversity, equity, and inclusion programs or initiatives are working, according to new research by Northwestern University alumna Jue Wu (PhD21).

Wu, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California Berkeley, used a change mapping approach to evaluate a National Science Foundation Program designed to increase the diversity of doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty in STEM disciplines. 

The program, called Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), funds networks of universities to improve access to and success in STEM doctoral programs for underrepresented students, with the goal of increasing the diversity of the STEM professoriate. AGEPs support students by providing personal and professional development workshops, mentoring, and outreach activities. They also work with STEM departments to create a more inclusive culture and climate.

When Wu and her coauthors looked for patterns across 17 AGEP past and current alliances, they found synergies and misalignments that wouldn’t necessarily have been obvious if they’d used different kind of framework, such as a logic model. “Logic models, which offer a picture of how the program is intended to work, do not intentionally reveal how changes manifest at each step,” Wu noted.

A change map can be used as a blueprint for organizational change initiatives. In a time of rapid change, defining and mapping several things at once can help determine the best way to move forward and how to effectively use multiple strategies at the same time.

Change mapping’s multifaceted and multilevel approach makes it a potentially powerful tool for “understanding and examining general broadening participation, diversifying STEM initiatives, or even the broader higher education reform practice,” they wrote. “We hope that this change mapping perspective opens a new window into how AGEP alliances see their own designs and efforts and may better focus their models on greater outcomes.”

The study also serves as a guide for current AGEP alliances and people who might be interested in starting one. Wu helped organize the 2020–2021 AGEP National Research Conference, where community members shared ideas about the dissemination, institutionalization, sustaining, and scaling of AGEP models.

At Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, Wu studied the role women-in-tech groups play in creating community for female STEM students. She first began working on the National Science Foundation’s AGEP project while at Northwestern’s Searle Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning. She received her master's in learning sciences at SESP and collected another one in statistics before earning her doctorate in learning sciences.

“Change mapping is a novel tool for analyzing complex diversity, equity, and inclusion programs or initiatives funded by NSF and other agencies, connecting the focus of individual projects and the landscape of the entire funded program,” she said.

The study “Change Mapping of Models to Diversify STEM Faculty as Practiced by Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate” was published in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education.

Wu coauthored the paper with two mentors: Bennett Goldberg, professor of physics and astronomy and faculty director of Northwestern University Program Evaluation Core; and Sarah Hokanson, assistant vice president and assistant provost for research development and PhD and postdoctoral affairs at Boston University. Goldberg, the former director of the Searle Center, was Wu’s faculty mentor and recently returned to teaching and research, focusing on inclusive teaching in STEM disciplines at Northwestern and nationally. 

"Dr. Wu a superb future faculty member, having designed the study, performed the interviews, analyzed the data and applied psychosocial and organizational frameworks to make meaning and create the novel change mapping," Goldberg said. "When she presented the work to the national audience of AGEP faculty leaders, it was enormously well-received."

At Berkeley, Wu continues to work with the AGEP community and pursue her passion in DEI research. She recently received a two-year, $250,000 postdoctoral supplement grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct her postdoctoral research.