STEM Pathways in Rural Arizona – SFAz+8

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$825,000 NSF Grant (DUE#1400687)

The SFAz+8 Program seeks to accelerate delivery of key STEM Pathway programs and activities through collaborations among a network of eight rural Arizona community colleges to prepare more students with STEM certifications and degrees that support local and state workforce demands.


The SFAz+8 Program is a 3-yr grant (DUE#1400687) awarded to Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  In partnership with SFAz, Arizona’s eight (+8) rural community colleges are jointly participating in the program to develop a viable Rural Arizona Community College Network (Network), expand and strengthen their STEM Pathways through targeted initiatives and program implementation, and track the resulting changes in their STEM student pipelines.

The participating rural colleges are: Arizona Western College (AWC), Central Arizona College (CAC), Cochise College, Coconino Community College (CCC), Eastern Arizona College (EAC), Mohave Community College (MCC), Northland Pioneer College (NPC), and Yavapai College (YC).



The rationale for the SFAz+8 Program is to leverage the critical role that rural community colleges play in meeting local and state industry workforce needs, and to leverage SFAz’s role as mentor, facilitator, and leader in STEM Education and Community College STEM Pathways to assist the colleges in meeting these needs.

SFAz was founded in 2006 to help Arizona develop a diverse economy, a competitive education system and high quality, high-paying jobs.  By maintaining its neutrality and a statewide view of related programs and activities, SFAz identifies and leverages best practices and creates opportunities among education and the private business sector to engage in meaningful initiatives.

This work leverages the colleges’ current partnerships with local K-12, industry and university partners. Colleges with experience and programs in one area will provide mentoring and participate, through the Network, with other colleges who may not have similar experience or resources.  Together with SFAz, the colleges are exchanging best practices, lessons learned, and effective tools to foster success.


With support from this NSF grant, SFAz and the eight rural community colleges aim to:

1.   Establish a thriving Rural Arizona Community College STEM Network that fosters college-to-college partnership and collaboration, enhanced industry engagement and, as a result, demonstrated improvements in the local and state workforce pipeline.

2.   Build their STEM Pathways by expanding and/or improving components and elements of their STEM Pathways strategies and plans.  Colleges are using the STEM Pathways Guide as a means for inventorying Pathway activities, prioritizing gaps, identifying and executing programs, and engaging in partnerships to strengthen college Pathways and optimize the utility of the STEM Pathways Guide.

3.   Increase the pipeline of rural students pursuing STEM degrees meeting local workforce needs.  Specifically, the colleges are collecting, analyzing, and aggregating data to measure increases in the number of:

  • Students engaged in college outreach initiatives.
  • High school students graduating with credits toward STEM degrees/credentials
  • Students enrolled in STEM programs at community colleges.
  • Students earning college credentials.

Meet the Team

Caroline VanIngen-Dunn
Principal Investigator, KickStarter Program & Director, Community College STEM Pathways

Ms. VanIngen-Dunn brought 23 years of research, development and program management experience in industry and in STEM education to her 7 years at Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) where she is the Director of Community College STEM Pathways. She joined SFAz in 2008, playing an integral role in setting the stage for what is now the Community College STEM Pathways Initiative.

Since 2010, Ms. VanIngen-Dunn has raised $5.3M and provided programmatic and budget oversight of $6.5M in STEM education programs with schools, community colleges and universities.  Programs include delivering university-level engineering courses to high school students whose credits transfer toward an engineering degree, increasing student college-going rates through a whole school STEM delivery model, developing an afterschool STEM Club pilot resulting in a user-friendly model that can be replicated and scaled statewide, and building the Community College STEM Pathway program.  Under her leadership, Ms. VanIngen-Dunn has grown the program from its infancy as a single grant with a rural Arizona community college to a statewide initiative leading all eight of Arizona’s rural community colleges to collaborate and network around developing and strengthening their own STEM Pathways efforts to grow a skilled Arizona workforce.  Ms. VanIngen-Dunn is also taking the program nationally to support Hispanic Serving Community Colleges in their efforts to increase the number of Hispanic students completing STEM programs and degrees.

Prior to SFAz, Ms. VanIngen-Dunn specialized in occupant protection and vehicle safety for the aerospace defense and railroad industries working in industry and eventually through her own consulting business, CVID Consulting Services, LLC, where she also developed and delivered STEM education programs and initiatives.  Her clients included Arizona State University, Maricopa Community Colleges, Arizona Science Center, the Federal Railroad Administration, Arizona Department of Commerce, TIAX, Simula Inc. (now BAE Systems), and other defense contractors.

Ms. VanIngen-Dunn has a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Iowa.  She serves on the University of Iowa’s College of Engineering Advisory Board and on a number of local school and nonprofit advisory committees.

Anita Grierson
Program Officer, Community College STEM Pathways

Ms. Grierson holds a Master’s of Business Administration from Arizona State University, a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University, and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. Most recently, Ms. Grierson served for six years as the Director of the METS program for Motivated Engineering Transfer Students at Arizona State University. Under a grant from NSF, Ms. Grierson helped to triple enrollment of Engineering transfer students from grant Community Colleges to ASU. Grierson led mentoring, tutoring, and other student engagement programs that tripled the use of an on-campus student center.  Students in the program had a 95+% graduation rate and continued to full time graduate school at a rate of over 50%.

Prior to joining ASU, Ms. Grierson served as a business development and program management consultant. She supported technology companies with market analysis and strategic planning. During this time Ms. Grierson also served as an Instructor for the International Center for Safety Education, teaching courses on Human Tolerance to Injury, leading Case Studies in Transport Aviation Safety and providing an Introduction to the Safety Improvement Process. For 8 years Ms. Grierson served as a Biomedical Engineer, Program Manager, and Senior Technology Analyst in the Aerospace and Defense Industry. She re-organized Program Management and Engineering policies and infrastructure for a troubled division of the company and developed and implemented a multi-divisional ‘stage-gate’ product development process. As a Program Manager, Ms. Grierson led a NASA-funded Transportation Safety program, managed the design, development and testing of a new aircraft seat, and initiated and led many small programs that better linked a corporate-wide R&D group with several product divisions. As Biomedical Engineer, Ms. Grierson led a team of military, FAA and civilian experts through the development of a novel evaluation criteria for a new safety system. She provided Engineering support for the research, development, design, testing and regulation of a variety of safety systems including aircraft air bags, seating and restraint systems, body and vehicle armor, head and neck protection systems, and rehabilitation products.

Ms. Grierson co-wrote “Sports Materials”, a set of activities, design projects and educational support materials that introduced Materials Science and Engineering concepts to middle and high school students nationwide, which was funded through an NSF grant. With a firm belief in inquiry-based learning, Ms. Grierson also brought over a dozen hands-on STEM-related projects and experiments that she designed to elementary school classrooms.

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