What is the Access Network?

The Access Network is a national network of university-based, student-centered programs all working towards a vision of a more divers, equitable, inclusive and accessible community, with a focus on the physical sciences. While they differ in the details, Access member programs, and the Network itself, are all guided by the following principles:

  1. foster supportive learning communities;
  2. engage students in the process of doing authentic science;
  3. help students develop professional skills (e.g. leadership, metacognitive, and reflective skills);
  4. empower students to take ownership of their education; all to
  5. increase diversity and equity in STEM.
What are Access’s goals?

Access’s goals are focused on enhancing the ability of its member programs to do what they do best: provide a supportive community for their students based on their specific needs and context. Access does so by:

  1. empowering students and faculty—especially those from marginalized and/or underrepresented groups—as agents in the design, implementation and iterative improvement of equity and inclusion efforts;
  2. facilitating communication and community among people involved in such efforts;
  3. creating and maintaining a repository of materials and strategies generated through these efforts;
  4. supporting local communities in adapting these materials and program elements to their unique contexts and populations.
What does Access Do?

To achieve its goals, Access runs several programs:

  • Intersite communication, travel, and documentation, coordinated through Network Fellows;
  • An annual Assembly, organized by Assembly Fellows;
  • Conference travel grants.
What are the different roles in Access?

People affiliated with Access have different roles in the network:

  • Core organizers: people who co-wrote the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that funds Access and are responsible to the NSF for keeping the Network going
  • Assembly fellows: student sites representatives who plan and rn the Assembly
  • Network fellows: student sites representatives who maintain communication among the sites and the network
  • Site leaders: Assembly attendees from a site who don’t have a formal role in the Network
  • Advisory board: people listed in the NSF grant who have agreed to serve as advisors for the Access core organizers in how to run Access
  • External evaluator: Jenifer Helm (Inverness Research, Inc.) is hired to study the Network and provide it with formative feedback.
Who funds Access?

Right now, Access has a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for $330,000. This is a three-year grant which started in September 2015. The search for more funding is ongoing.

Which sites make up Access?

Six sites were written into the original National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that funds Access: The Compass Project, IMPRESS, Chi-Sci Scholars, Sundial, Equity Constellation (formerly Focus on Physics), and CU-Prime. Since then, three others have joined Access in various capacities: GPS, North Star, and Polaris.

What is the purpose of the Access Assembly?

The purpose of the Access Network Assembly is to facilitate collaboration between all of the Access member programs by gathering them together in a single location. Thus, the Assembly includes time to:

  • share updates and lessons learned from each site
  • further the development of materials and program models
  • work through local difficulties
  • engage in professional development and learning
  • coordinate Network activities
  • build community and network
What principles underlie Assembly construction?

The Assembly planning team took several principles into account when planning the Assembly:

  • Trust: Many of the activities at the Assembly involve a fair amount of personal sharing and vulnerability, which are important for learning about issues of equity and inclusion. Thus, the Assembly must include opportunities for building mutual trust, and should exclude situations that could break that trust.
  • Expectations: Assembly attendees should have enough information in advance of the Assembly so that they can have clear expectations of what the Assembly is about. In particular, attendees should expect that their input into future directions for the Network are desired and valued and that their voices are equal with all others at the Assembly.
  • Clarity: In order to be able to contribute in a meaningful way to Network-level decisions, Assembly attendees must be provided with resources to understand the structure of Access.
  • Balance: Assembly planners will strive to balance heavy subjects and fun activities in a way that is respectful of both and doesn’t make anyone feel patronized.
How are decisions made at the Assembly?

In general, Access is a consensus-based organization, which means that major decisions are made based on whether everyone involved in the decision-making process consents to the proposed course of action. This is very different from a “majority rules” voting system.

To facilitate consensus conversations and decisions, Access uses consensus cards. We will use these cards at the Assembly to make it easier to ensure that everyone has a voice in our conversations and decisions. Here is what the cards mean:

  • Green Square/Snaps: “Yes, I agree.”; “I consent.”; “I support you and/or what you said.”
  • Yellow Triangle: “I have a question or comment.”; “I somewhat consent, but with hesitation.”
  • Red Octagon: “Wait! I disagree.”; “Please get back on topic.”; “That violates our norms.”

Note that these cards can be used in combination.

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