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Southern Wisconsin Aspire Regional Collaborative

The Southern Wisconsin Regional Collaborative ( SWARC) is a collaborative internship and career development program for underrepresented and minoritized ( URM) STEM graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, built by faculty, administrators and staff across 11 University of Wisconsin ( UW) System institutions in Southern Wisconsin. Participating institutions and campuses include: UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Platteville, UW-Whitewater, UW-Milwaukee at Washington County, UW-Milwaukee at Waukesha, UW-Platteville Richland, UW-Platteville Baraboo/Sauk County, and UW-Whitewater at Rock County. SWARC is funded through by NSF Aspire, the National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty.

Virtual Career Panel 2022: Faculty careers at 2-year and 4-year predominantly undergraduate institutions 


While higher education faculty careers hold interest for many STEM graduate students, most have little knowledge about how these careers vary across different types of institutions. Additionally, STEM graduate programs generally focus on developing academic and research knowledge and skills, leaving students less prepared for the teaching and mentorship components of faculty careers.

SWARC programming is designed to increase knowledge of and preparedness for teaching-intensive faculty careers at 2-year and 4-year predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUIs). These institutions represent critical pathways towards STEM undergraduate degrees and careers, particularly for URM students. Faculty positions at PUIs offer unique opportunities, have higher teaching responsibilities, and often serve student bodies that differ from those at larger 4-year institutions with extensive STEM graduate programs.

The SWARC career panel is designed to engage a wide range of graduate and post-doctoral students to provide an overview of PUI faculty careers and experiences. The SWARC Scholar program will support 10 URM STEM graduate students and post-doctoral researchers annually. SWARC Scholars will work directly with program directors, faculty mentors and URM undergraduate students at multiple regional PUIs to compare and contrast faculty experiences while developing inclusive pedagogical skills. In doing so, SWARC hopes to 1) help participants determine whether PUI faculty careers are a good match for their personal career aspirations and 2) help Scholars develop knowledge and skills that aid their ability to matriculate into and succeed in PUI faculty positions.

While SWARC is primarily designed to support the professional development of STEM graduate students and post-doctoral workers, SWARC Scholars will also help URM STEM undergraduates at PUIs connect with regional graduate students in their fields and learn more about STEM graduate programs and careers.

SWARC is one of six Aspire Alliance Regional Collaboratives in the United States. The Aspire Alliance is funded by the National Science Foundation. The goals of the Aspire Alliance Regional Collaborative program are to 1) increase the size and diversity of the pool of graduate students and qualified professionals pursuing a teaching career in STEM at 2-year colleges, and 2) expand and strengthen the skills of future, early-career and current STEM faculty to teach the diverse student population.

SWARC Program Directors include Anneke Lisberg, Julie Janiak, and Stephen Levas. Dr. Anneke Lisberg is an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at UW-Whitewater, and is Director and co-founder of the UWW STEM Boot Camp, a bridge program that has supported the success of undergraduate URM STEM students since 2012. Dr. Julie Janiak is Interim Director of the Center for Educational Opportunity at UW-Madison and previously served as Director of TRIO Student Support Services at UW-Whitewater and UW-Whitewater at Rock County. Dr. Stephen Levas is an associate professor in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Environmental Science at UW-Whitewater and serves as Co-Director of the UWW STEM Boot Camp.

SWARC Scholar Program

SWARC supports up to 10 Scholars annually in a 9-month program from July-March. Scholars receive extensive cohort and mentor support to meet program goals and are paid a $2000 stipend upon program completion. While travel for the four site visits (see below) is not be provided by SWARC, we will work with Scholars to facilitate ride-sharing, minimize travel costs, and ensure that lack of transportation access is not a barrier to participation. The SWARC Scholar Program is comprised of:

  • Cohort Gatherings (6 virtual meetings total: August - March)
  • SBC Internship (one 1-day site visit to UW-Whitewater: August)
  • PUI Faculty Internships (2 x 1-day site visits to participating PUI institutions: September - December)
  • 1:1 Faculty Mentorship (2 virtual meetings + 1 site visit: January - March)

Cohort Gatherings will be held virtually six times in total across the fall and spring semester. Cohort Gatherings allow Scholars to discuss and integrate program experiences with one other and with Program Directors. In these gatherings, Scholars will:

  • Explore background readings that address key concepts for inclusive teaching, best practices that improve educational outcomes for diverse student bodies.
  • Be matched with faculty mentors at participating PUIs.
  • Share, compare and contrast SBC Internship and PUI Faculty Internship experiences.
  • Collaborate and critique development of a novel course component using inclusive teaching concepts developed and implemented with faculty mentors.

The 2022-2023 Virtual Cohort Gatherings will be from 10:00-11:00 am on the following Fridays:

  • August 12, 2022
  • September 09, 2022
  • November 11, 2022
  • January 20, 2023
  • February 10, 2023
  • March 10, 2023

The SBC Internship will include one one-day site visit to UW-Whitewater on Thursday August 25, 2022. Scholars will shadow one day of the UWW STEM Boot Camp, a bridge program (between high school and the first year of undergraduate studies) that supports the success of URM STEM students. Scholars will mentor STEM Boot Camp students by providing feedback on students’ small research proposals developed earlier in the program, sharing their own graduate school experiences, and discussing their career interests with students. Scholars will also meet with STEM Boot Camp program directors to discuss impacts of bridge and other mentorship programs, how faculty at PUIs can initiate and participate in targeted mentorship programs, and how similar inclusive teaching principles can be applied to classroom activities and mentorship program development.

The PUI Faculty Internship will include two one-day site visits to different participating PUIs in southern Wisconsin. For each site visit, Scholars will travel in pairs (with another program Scholar) to a PUI where they will welcomed by a Faculty Mentor. Scholars will shadow the faculty mentor during course instruction, explore the campus, meet with undergraduates to discuss student experiences, and talk with the Faculty Mentor about faculty experiences, expectations, and opportunities at that institution (scheduling, teaching, research, and mentorship experiences and expectations, unique aspects of that institutions’ student body, hiring criteria, tenure expectations etc.) Scholars and Mentors will also discuss how inclusive teaching practices may have been integrated into the observed class. Dates of the PUI Faculty Internship will be arranged to accommodate Scholar and Faculty Mentor schedules, but both site visits will occur September-December.

Finally, the 1:1 Faculty Mentorship will provide Scholars with experience in course development and an opportunity to implement and hone inclusive teaching practices and skills, further preparing them for successful applications to faculty positions and for successful transitions into faculty careers. Each Scholar will work with a Faculty Mentor to develop a novel course component (a learning activity, lecture etc.) that the Scholar will then implement with students at the Mentor’s institution, generally as part of a STEM course taught by the Mentor. To accomplish this, Scholars will:

  • Meet (virtually) with the Mentor to identify an appropriate topic and course component to develop.
  • Integrate an inclusive teaching concept from the Cohort Gathering readings and discussions into their course component plan.
  • Solicit feedback from the Mentor, Scholar Cohort, and SWARC Program Directors to refine the component plan.
  • Provide similar critiques to other Scholars through the Cohort Gatherings.
  • Implement the course component as arranged with the Mentor.
  • Receive feedback from the Mentor and students.

SWARC Scholars will also have access to a pedagogical development resource site that will compile lists and links for teaching development activities (workshops, talks, panels etc.) offered through participating institutions and related programs. This will facilitate further pedagogical training for Scholars interested in building their inclusive teaching knowledge and skills beyond the SWARC Scholar Program.

The 2022 cohort of SWARC Scholars will participate in activities between August 2022-March 2023. Applicants and accepted Scholars are also encouraged to attend the virtual Career Panel in July 2022. The 2022 Scholar applications will be reviewed beginning in June (priority acceptance for those submitted by June 20, 2022) with rolling acceptance thereafter until the program is full.

SWARC Scholars will be selected from eligible applicants on the timeline described above. To be eligible for the SWARC Scholar Program, applicants must be:

  • Of one or more groups designated as underrepresented and/or minoritized (URM) in STEM fields (see below), AND…
  • Currently enrolled as a graduate student or working as a postdoctoral researcher in a designated STEM field (see below).

Required qualifications for SWARC Scholar support are based on categorizations of STEM fields and URM groups determined by our funding sources. For these purposes, URM groups include:

  • URM racial and ethnic groups (American Indian or Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Black or African-American, Hispanic or Latinx)
  • Women
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Persons from economically disadvantaged backgrounds

For these purposes, STEM fields include:

  • Computer and information sciences
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Natural Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Biology, Environmental Science)
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (Psychology, Economics, Sociology, Political Science)

Competitive applicants will also demonstrate a strong interest in exploring teaching-intensive faculty career paths and developing inclusive teaching and mentorship skills.

Virtual Career Panel

2022 Date:

10:00 am CST, Friday July 22, 2022

Recording of Virtual Career Panel 

This virtual panel discussion comprised of PUI faculty from participating SWARC institutions will target STEM graduate students and post-docs across the UW System. Panel Members will discuss career experiences with attendees, including those applying to become SWARC Scholars as well as those who do not intend to apply for and/or do not qualify for this portion of the program (non-URM, non-STEM, or students at non-participating institutions.) The panel will address what they perceive as the unique aspects of their jobs that differ from faculty experiences at research-intensive 4-year universities with extensive STEM graduate programs, including:

  • Goals, challenges and opportunities for teaching, mentorship, research, and service
  • Challenges in transition from graduate experiences to faculty careers
  • Skills and qualifications of successful candidates in such positions

The virtual event welcomes attendees from any UW System STEM graduate or post-doctoral program. Students and researchers interested in becoming SWARC Scholars (see below) are especially encouraged to participate. Recordings of the panel discussion will be distributed to a national graduate student audience by UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) Network.

This event has passed.