Engaging Autistic STEM Undergraduates in Creating Supportive Learning Environments
2023 to 2025

Engaging Autistic STEM Undergraduates in Creating Supportive Learning Environments is a two-year partnership between EDC and Sonoma State University in collaboration with California State Universities at Chico and East Bay, funded by the National Science Foundation.

This project aims to serve the national interest by identifying the needs of autistic STEM students across three campuses within the California State University (CSU) system and designing campus programs to improve the learning experiences of students on the autistic spectrum. This project will partner with autistic STEM majors enrolled on partner campuses and empower them to design campus resources, with the help of STEM faculty and student services staff. These new resources will deepen their engagement with their STEM fields, provide opportunities to develop and pursue their STEM career interests, and establish meaningful and lasting peer and mentor relationships. The number of autistic young people seeking college degrees continues to increase and universities are not prepared to harness the strengths and interests that autistic students can contribute to their campus communities. This project is significant because it employs and fully involves autistic STEM majors from the design through the implementation of this project.

Four objectives will guide this two-year project:
• First is to understand the existing support landscape for autistic STEM undergraduates at three partner CSU campuses;
• Second is to identify gaps in available CSU campus programs from the perspective of autistic students, faculty, staff, and administrators and make recommendations to fill these gaps;
• Third is to iteratively develop, implement, and evaluate pilot campus programs and experiences for autistic STEM students and professional development for faculty and staff;
• The fourth is to prepare to expand campus partnerships to additional universities by synthesizing recommendations based on findings from pilot program implementation.

The NSF IUSE: EHR Program supports research and development projects to improve the effectiveness of STEM education for all students. Through its Engaged Student Learning track, the program supports the creation, exploration, and implementation of promising practices and tools.