STEM-OPS Working Groups Retreat to DC for Collaboration and Fellowship

Attendees in front of the US Capitol

Authors: Basia Skudrzyk, P2P Program Analyst & Consultant, and Una MacDowell, EDC, STEM-OPS Team Member

STEM-OPS working group members from across the country converged in Washington, DC, on May 20 for a full-day retreat in EDC’s Georgetown offices. The energy and commitment were palpable among the 35 people who attended, representing a range of organizations, professions, and experiences connected to STEM fields and incarceration.


The working groups are a key STEM-OPS strategy for driving change to disrupt the systems that exclude many people who are justice-impacted from STEM education and professions. Four groups have been launched recently and are aligned to the key principles that guide STEM-OPS:

  • Elevate the voices and respect the leadership of previously incarcerated persons
  • Create a collaborative infrastructure for system change
  • Dismantle the structures in STEM and incarceration

The working groups each focus on a topic identified through community-based systems dynamics to expand access to STEM fields: Mentoring, Internships, Speaker’s Bureau, and Data and Measures. (A fifth STEM-OPS working group on expanding access to technology for STEM education in prisons will be launched soon.) The working groups are composed of people from different organizations and include people impacted by incarceration, higher education practitioners, education experts, and other community partners and stakeholders who are working together to increase access to education and career opportunities in STEM. The working groups will create tools and products that will be shared broadly so that others can apply them in their organizations.


Below are the goals for each of the working groups and their initial plan of action.

  • Support new mentoring programs to thrive and help returning citizens advance in STEM education and careers.
  • Create a modular toolkit that provides the framework, training, and ongoing monitoring of mentoring networks for STEM students and professionals.
  • Extend STEM internship opportunities to justice-impacted college students.
  • Provide necessary equity, diversity and inclusion training for interns that builds support and a strong foundation
  • Create additional mental health components.
Speaker’s Bureau

Develop a Speakers’ Bureau to create a diverse pool of formerly incarcerated speakers who are involved in STEM fields, and give them access to training and paid speaking opportunities. A vision, goals, and value statement are being created to highlight the importance of system impacted peoples’ voices being heard.

Data and Measures

Develop an assessment tool for higher education in prison STEM programs. The tool criteria will be informed by the experiences and needs of students who are formerly incarcerated to highlight the value of, for example, re-entry support.


We achieved a lot in one day! Participants were ready to keep working when it reached time to disband. We hope everyone’s passion for the work will continue to keep us buoyant and productive. Good luck to all our STEM-OPS working groups.

We will be back together again at the STEM-OPS Annual Convening, which will be held in St. Louis, Missouri on October 25–27, 2022. Please share this Save the Date card with your colleagues.

Thanks to all working group members for their hard work and passion!


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