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Outcomes of this Year's Community of Practice

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By: Barb Hurtt, Biological Sciences

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The 2021-2022 CCESL Engaging Onward faculty Community of Practice provided a wonderful opportunity to extend discussions of the opportunities and challenges of teaching and engaging students and community members while continuing to navigate the nuances and complexities of Covid-19. The emphasis of my involvement in the Engaging Onward 2021-2022 Community of Practice was the STEM Mentor Internship I had developed with two DU students in collaboration with Westminster High School (WHS) during the 2020-2021 academic year.

The STEM Mentor Internship is a community engaged collaboration that pairs DU undergraduate STEM students with high school seniors in the Biomedical Sciences Career and Technical Education (CTE) program at WHS. A major goal of the STEM Mentor Internship is to help both the DU undergraduates and the WHS seniors develop in meaningful and purposeful ways and to support their intellectual, personal and career growth. For the DU students, some goals included: 1) provide opportunity for DU students to connect with the community, especially during Covid-19; 2) increase knowledge of what purposeful mentoring is and how it can promote personal and professional development; 3) grow leadership skills and refine professional abilities and soft communication skills; and 4) promote the confidence and knowledge of high school students interested in STEM careers, particularly for students from historically underrepresented groups. For the WHS students, some goals included: 1) provide seniors in the biomedical sciences program a mentor to help guide their progress through their senior year and help prepare them for post-graduation goals; 2) find an external, community-based connection between the content they learn in the biomedical sciences CTE and the skills/knowledge/experience they need for post-secondary success; and 3) give the students a role model for mentoring interaction, interpersonal communication, and professional relationship development.

A shared outcome of participating in the Engaging Onward Community of Practice was a greater identification and integration of goals for the mentoring, as surveyed by both the DU and WHS students; this helped the mentoring experience be more meaningful and purposeful for all involved students. Another shared outcome was the inclusion of reflective portfolios for both the DU and WHS students. Due to the success of DU students completing portfolios throughout the 2020-21 STEM Mentor Internship, it was integrated into the WHS Biomedical Sciences CTE capstone requirements for the 2021-2022 academic year so that the WHS students would have a more purposeful way to reflect on the experience, similar to the DU students. To facilitate this portfolio inclusion, Scott Troy - the community partner faculty member at WHS, mentor student leader Collette Hong, and I created a weekly schedule of the topics to be discussed throughout the year (based on DU and WHS student input) as well as outcomes for each week. To facilitate outcomes, we created a proposed list of potential artifacts that could be created, collected, or curated each week by the high school students based on the weekly mentor discussion topics. In this way, our goal was to help guide the students to capture their experiences and have a meaningful, personal selection of artifacts for their end of year portfolios. Another change included modifying the DU students final (spring quarter) reflection assignment to allow them more choice and voice in how they represented the work, knowledge, and experience gained through this mentoring internship.

Finally, I will quickly note that this year I was also able to integrate ideas and perspectives from the Engaging Onward discussions into multiple other courses, which I found very valuable. The Community of Practice also gave me the courage to bring more reflective practices into all of the courses I teach and to acknowledge and appreciate the humanity of everyone’s journey through the past 2 years.


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