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Our Strategic Plan

Mission Statement

The Smoky Mountains STEM Collaborative is a STEM education ecosystem project serving learners in the southern Appalachians of western North Carolina.

We work with learners from a diverse population, including enrolled members of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and many first generation college students. These learners are underrepresented not only in STEM fields, but higher education in general. Our continuing mission is to expand and engage the region's public schools, tribal schools, community colleges, and universities in a cohesive, learner-centered STEM ecosystem that leverages Subject Matter Experts (SME's) and science centers to achieve NASA's mission to help learners of all ages "do" science in their own communities.

Core Values

We aim to enrich and sustain rural Appalachia's STEM Ecosystem through increasing scientific literacy and improving the individual science identity of the people in western North Carolina with persistent access to NASA resources.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats or Concerns (SWOT)
Our pre-assessment plan consists of an internal SWOT analysis, discussions with our external evaluators, and conversations with team members and Southwestern Community College administrators, faculty, and staff. One clear lesson from pre-assessment is the need for more external, community representation in our ongoing development and this is reflected in several of our goals. The initial impetus for developing a strategic plan has been driven by project organizers' desire to reach a broader audience and have a greater impact in their work. It was decided by the project lead to incorporate five goals into the strategic plan.
Goals, Strategies, and Operational Tactics
  • Goal 1: Project Goals - Provide the quality experiences promised by our mission and vision statements and reflective of our core values.
  • Goal 2: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) - To be truly representative of the community we work with, project leaders will seek to lift up marginalized community members into active roles within the Collaborative.
  • Goal 3: Broadening Participation - Project leaders will engage the community beyond the classroom involving learners of all ages and educating them about the Collaborative's mission.
  • Goal 4: Funding - Project leaders will maintain and seek out funding to provide quality instruction and experiences for learners of all ages.
  • Goal 5: Collaboration - Project leaders will engage in collaboration to broaden the western North Carolina STEM learning ecosystem.

Projected Outcomes

  • Goal 1: Projected Goals - Please refer to Figure 1.
  • Goal 2: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) - Enlist the aid of Spanish-speaking and Cherokee language subject matter experts (SME) with full acknowledgement and compensation for their expertise.
  • Goal 3: Broadening Participation - Expand our social media reach deeper into the community and achieve recognition among the general population of the region in regards to our work and STEM in general.
  • Goal 4: Funding - Work with Southwestern Community College's grant writer to seek out and apply for additional funding opportunities.
  • Goal 5: Collaboration - Reach out to other organizations throughout the region and connect in meaningful and productive ways.

Action Plans for Areas Needed for Improvement

  • Area 1: Organizational Transparency and Communication - Core project staff will seek methods to streamline internal work-flow systems and create outward facing web and social media presence which are easily accessible to the community.
  • Area 2: DEIA - Core project staff will seek out funding and recruit new project staff trained in Spanish language and Cherokee language instruction.
  • Area 3: Community Engagement - Core project staff are now members of the Project Committee that will develop a larger Strategic Planning Committee that will engage key community members to contribute to our ongoing improvement process and to continuously monitor progress towards plan goals.

Performance Measures to Use to Assess Progress (indicators, metrics, milestones, etc.)

  • Goal 1: Project Goals - Please refer to Figure 1.
  • Goal 2 and Area 2: DEIA - Project will have recruited the aforementioned new team members.
  • Goal 3: Broadening Participation - Project will monitor social media interactions and utilize survey questions and other methods to determine increased familiarity with the project within the community.
  • Goal 4: Funding - Measured in dollar amount of additional funding and in years of funding.
  • Goal 5: Collaboration - Increased involvement with other regional STEM advocacy individuals and groups


Figure 1: SMSC Logic Model (Industry Expansion Solutions, 2021).


Potential and Current Funding

The Smoky Mountains STEM Collaborative is currently funded in cooperative agreement with NASA Science Mission Directorate under grant award No. NNX16AB87A. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Additional funding could be provided via NSF, NASA, or the Department of Education.


Industry Expansion Solutions (2021). Year 1 Evaluation Report Phase 2 (2020 - 2025).                                                                                         [Internal NASA document, provided upon request.]

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