Bourgault selected for STEM Leadership Institute


By Eric Foster, Editor and Creative Specialist

Commonwealth University faculty member Rebecca Bourgault, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental, Geographical, and Geological Sciences, participated in this year’s Project Kaleidoscope STEM Leadership Institute (PKAL SLI) sponsored by the American Association of Colleges & Universities.
Held virtually in July, the PKALSTEM Leadership Institute is designed for early- and mid-career STEM faculty, principal investigators, and administrators who are engaged in leading initiatives to transform undergraduate STEM education in their institutions. Grounded in theories of leadership, adult learning, and social psychology, the institute uses a blend of reflection and introspection — along with a variety of other approaches that include case studies, role-playing, and collaborative problem-solving exercises.

Each institute is led by a team of mentors trained in the principles and practice of evidence-based coaching. Bourgault was matched with a mentor and two colleagues, with whom she plans to meet regularly

“The institute was truly an eye-opening and transformative experience for me,” said Bourgault. “The focus of the Institute was on reforming STEM education to better serve the needs of a diverse society, in order to create a more inclusive, equitable, and socially just system of higher education. The tools, experiences, and deep discussions offered by the program helped me identify my own strengths and weaknesses, and opportunities for growth and reflection in my professional career and life as a whole.” 

In addition to teaching courses in soil and environmental sciences, Bourgault serves as Stephen J. Jones Professional U Faculty Fellow for the College of Science and Technology (COST). Taking on this new role during a time of transition for the University, she sees this challenge as an opportunity to strengthen the Professional U program for COST, and to develop her own leadership style.

The most significant takeaways for Bourgault included the development of her personal “why” as Jones Fellow — to help students of all backgrounds enter well-paying, rewarding STEM careers, and to help change society’s stereotypical view of what a scientist looks like. Another significant realization was learning to prioritize the most important things in life to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

“I highly recommend any College of Science and Technology faculty member willing to embrace change and personal reflection to participate in the PKAL SLI in the future,” said Bourgault.