expectations in the program solicitation: ATE initiatives are to be faculty driven; they must involve
partnerships with other education sectors and
employers in industries of economic and strategic
importance to the nation; and they must be part of
credit-bearing programs and courses.
Ellen Kabat Lensch, who also received a $3 million
center grant in 1994 to start the Advanced Technology
Environmental Education Center (ATEEC) at Eastern
Iowa Community College District, says the ATE program has generated “respect” for community colleges,
technicians and technician education. Lensch, now the
district’s vice chancellor of resource development and
innovation, continues to serve as principal investigator
of the center that has had a succession of ATE grants.
“Receiving the ATE grant in 1994 put Eastern Iowa
Community College on the map, literally. People
would ask, ‘Why Iowa?’ And we would respond, ‘Why
not Iowa?’ Our strength was, back then and continues to be, the robust educational partnerships and
industry relationships we have formed.
“The tools we developed as part of the ATEEC
grants, such as the Defining documents, the
DACUMs, the connections with research institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, and the development of our Fellows
Institutes all formed foundations for our programs
at our home college,” she says.
Lensch notes that the faculty leading ATE
initiatives are now more diverse than in 1994 when
the several dozen people attending the AACC’s’ first
gathering of principal investigators looked like her
dad. “Not that there was anything wrong with looking like my dad, but I stood out as a young female
and I don’t remember anyone of color,” she says.
More than 800 people attended the 2017 Principal
Investigators Conference. Of the 239 grantees
who responded to the demographic questions in
EvaluATE’s 2018 survey, 35 percent were female, 11 percent minority and 50 percent were younger than 54.
The conference, hosted annually by AACC with
ATE support, has become the important place for
principal investigators to share their results. The
numerous collaborations sparked there during
cross-discipline panels and informal conversations
are the result of the community spirit that NSF
program officers have intentionally nurtured to
expand the program’s impact.
“We are proud to be a part of a program where
investigators share their ideas and energy to make
the ATE program a resource of effective strategies
designed to meet students’ academic needs, teach new
technologies, and respond to employers expectations,”
AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus says.
AACC also receives ATE support for MentorLinks,
which provides two years of mentoring for faculty
to create or revamp a technician education program.
AACC also is a partner on the South Carolina
Advanced Technological Education Center’s
Mentor-Connect project, which provides mentoring and technical support to help two-year college
teams prepare competitive ATE proposals.
Mentor-Connect Principal Investigator Elaine
Craft was the project leader in 1994 when the South
Carolina Technical College System received its first
ATE grant. She, too, has had great success obtaining
ATE grants since. “If you do good work and produce
results that are worthwhile, it is possible to continue
receiving NSF ATE funding to build and expand
upon that work,” Craft says.
From engineering technology, which was
the initial focus of the South Carolina Advanced
Technological Education Center that Craft led, she has
pivoted to teaching and learning across disciplines.
With Mentor-Connect she has devised a regenerative
leadership development process for the ATE program.
“I have seen no better way to empower faculty as
change agents and to develop leaders among STEM
faculty than getting them engaged as ATE principal
investigators,” Craft says. Mentor-Connect is for faculty at two-year colleges that have never had an ATE
grant, or at least not in the past seven years.
Harrison, Lensch and Craft agree that the “we’re
all this together” ethos among ATE principal investigators in combination with funding to carry out
their ideas is powerful, and often springboards faculty and entire campuses beyond their grants’ goals.
As Harrison points out, “there’s a real spirit of collaboration across community colleges that strengthen
all of our institutions. So the more committed minds
we have do this, the stronger the program is going to
be nationally and the stronger each of our institutions
is going to be.”
Madison Area Technical
College in Wisconsin hosts
the Center for Renewable