A. CIRTL: The Big Picture
B. CIRTL Network: Shared Expectations of Institutional Members
C. CIRTL Network: Overview of Budgets
D. CIRTL Network: Financial Structure
E. CIRTL Network: Administrative Structure
Appendix A. The Benefits of CIRTL Membership
Appendix B. CIRTL History
Through the preparation of STEM future faculty, the CIRTL Network seeks to produce a national STEM faculty who are both skilled researchers and excellent teachers, and who will be able to succeed at their desired balance of the two in careers across the landscape of higher education. At the end of 2023, the CIRTL Network comprises 45 research universities, and serves more than 2,500 STEM future faculty each year.
The CIRTL Network receives frequent inquiries of interest from universities. The network will accept its next cohort of university members in Fall 2024, with applications due Monday, March 11, 2024. Strategically, the CIRTL Network seeks to welcome all graduate-degree granting universities in the United States and Canada who play a significant role in the production of STEM faculty. Significant roles might be defined by numbers of STEM PhD’s who go on to faculty positions, or by diversifying the STEM faculty along an array of dimensions. One dimension of high priority is the preparation of future faculty currently underrepresented among STEM faculty.
This document, CIRTL for the Nation: A Membership Plan for Sustained Impact (pdf), describes the expectations of CIRTL Network membership, as well as current operations of the Network. It is not intended to be a recruiting document (but see Appendix A). The presumption is that if you are reading this, you are already interested in CIRTL and want to understand the current status and processes of the CIRTL Network.
This is a living document. The CIRTL Network takes pride in its ability to change and evolve in response to new members and new ideas. Each year continues our learning of how to foster an ever-growing CIRTL Network in order to better prepare a future faculty that will improve STEM undergraduate education on a national scale.
We hope you join us on this journey.
For more information:
Nearly three-quarters of STEM Ph.D.’s in the United States are awarded at only 100 doctoral research universities.1 This small number of universities provides faculty2 to several thousand undergraduate institutions. In fact, 80% of full-time STEM faculty in the United States received their Ph.D.’s at research universities. Thus, graduate education is a powerful lever by which to improve STEM undergraduate learning broadly.
The mission of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) is:
To enhance excellence in undergraduate education through the development of a national faculty committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse learners as part of successful and varied professional careers.
To fulfill this mission, CIRTL has developed, implemented, and evaluated successful strategies for preparing STEM future faculty3 for careers that integrate research, teaching, and learning. Three core ideas provide the conceptual framework for all that CIRTL does:
- Teaching-as-Research (TAR) is the deliberate, systematic, and reflective use of research methods by STEM instructors to develop and implement teaching practices that advance the learning experiences and outcomes of all students.
- Learning Communities (LC) bring together groups of people for shared learning, discovery, and generation of knowledge. To achieve common learning goals, a learning community nurtures functional relationships among its members.
- Learning-through-Diversity (LtD) capitalizes on the rich array of experiences, backgrounds, and skills among STEM undergraduates and graduates-through-faculty to enhance the learning of all. It recognizes that excellence and diversity are necessarily intertwined.
The CIRTL Network connects together research universities that use the CIRTL ideas to prepare the national STEM faculty. Shared ideas among Network universities allow each institution to more rapidly advance opportunities and effectively use resources. Shared learning of Network graduate students better prepares them for the diverse teaching and research settings that they will encounter in their careers. Shared action better positions Network universities for funding, collaboration, and national impact.
Each university in the CIRTL Network (www.cirtl.net) develops, implements, and evaluates a local CIRTL learning community and associated programs for STEM future faculty on its campus. These learning communities all share the CIRTL core ideas, but each is uniquely implemented in ways that reflect the wide variety of campus cultures, missions, students and circumstances. The local learning communities are the foundation of all that is CIRTL.
Each university also contributes to a Cross-Network Learning Community. These programs allow the future faculty on every campus to draw on the rich diversity of the Network universities. Much of this Cross-Network Learning Community happens online, and we envision further expanding connectivity of CIRTL Network future faculty to the entire landscape of undergraduate institutions.
All members of the CIRTL Network are committed to preparing future faculty who are both superb researchers and excellent teachers. We continue to welcome graduate-degree granting universities whose Ph.D. recipients will play a significant role in the future STEM faculty.
1 National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. 2018. 2017 Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities. Special Report NSF 19-301. Alexandria, VA. Available at https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf19301/.
2 CIRTL considers “faculty” to include all undergraduate instructors.
3 By STEM we mean the natural and social sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics. By “future faculty” we mean graduate students and post-doctoral researchers.
The CIRTL Network is made up of Institutional Members. These members are graduate-degree granting universities that are significant contributors to the STEM faculty of the United States and Canada.
Institutional Members establish a formal, contractual partnership with the CIRTL Network around the expectations below.
Institutional Members embrace the CIRTL Network’s mission and core ideas; build a local CIRTL learning community and create, adapt, or expand local development opportunities based on these core ideas for their STEM future faculty; and commit to meeting the programmatic commitments below.
An Institutional Member has one STEM senior faculty member, the Institutional Leader, committed to actively engaging in leading the institution’s local development and involvement in the CIRTL Network. We recommend that the Institutional Leader receive relief from other obligations (e.g., 25% FTE) during the intensive development period of at least the first two years.
An Institutional Member also has an Administrative Co-Leader. In addition to development of the local learning community, this person often has primary responsibility for management of day-to-day learning community activities.
Distributed leadership and responsibilities are necessary for success. We strongly recommend a local CIRTL team. Successful local teams in the Network have engaged several STEM faculty; colleagues in centers focused on faculty development, teaching excellence, or teaching assistants’ professional development; and senior graduate students or post-doctoral fellows.
Institutional Members should have ways of communicating with all of their STEM graduate students to broadly market local and cross-Network programs to future and current faculty and staff.
Institutional Members contribute annual dues, currently $13,000, and in-kind contributions to the Network in support of cross-Network activities and Network leadership and development.
A university-level administrator should commit the institution to fulfilling the obligations of Institutional Members.
Each Institutional Member commits to building a local learning community for future faculty, and providing formal and informal opportunities based on the CIRTL core ideas. These opportunities include (but are not limited to) courses, seminars, workshops, TAR projects and internship seminars, and other CIRTL-based activities. These can be newly created, adapted from current institutional offerings, or draw on existing programs throughout the Network.
Through involvement in the local learning community, future faculty should demonstrably develop skills aligned with the CIRTL learning outcomes and levels of achievement. The local programs, and those programs offered by the Institutional Member as cross-Network opportunities, should explicitly foster future faculty attaining the CIRTL Associate and Practitioner levels of achievement, and the CIRTL Scholar level for those who wish.
Institutional Members commit to integrating cross-Network offerings into their local CIRTL learning community, and to contributing programming and opportunities for future faculty throughout the Network via the Cross-Network Learning Community.
Institutional Members commit to submitting an annual tally of Associates and Practitioners and a report describing local CIRTL-related programs using a Network-provided template. These reports may be reviewed by a standing committee in order to assess progress toward achieving local goals at each member institution, as well as to examine progress toward achieving overarching Network goals.
In the spirit of Teaching-as-Research, Institutional Members implement evaluations locally, for which the Network provides a resource base of assessment instruments and examples.
CIRTL began in 2003 as a PI-based, multi-institutional project with the University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW) serving as the administrative and operational home (see Appendix B). As the CIRTL Network has expanded in number and scope of operations, leadership has become more distributed. Even so, currently CIRTL remains administered at UW through the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER).
An overall budget profile for CIRTL is shown in Table 1; detailed budgets vary from year to year. The core operations of CIRTL are funded primarily by member dues.
Table 1. Annual Budget for Core Network Operations (July 1- June 30)
CIRTL Central Income
Network Institution Dues $546,000
CIRTL Central Expenses
- Personnel 3.0 FTE (Network administration & operations, local learning community support, cross-network learning community support, evaluation) $350,000
- In-person Meeting expenses (Spring & Conference Presence) (space, food, AV) $20,000
- Software Subscriptions, Computers, Branded Materials, Supplies $5,000
- Travel (Staff In-person mtgs, campus visits, conferences) $15,000
- Website Hosting & Development $5,000
- Professional Services $25,000
- UW/WCER Support Services to the Network (HR, Financials, Admin, Tech) $120,000
In-kind contributions are also a core component of the CIRTL operation plan. A fundamental goal of the CIRTL Network is to use the diversity of the Network to enhance the learning of all Network future faculty, and of all partner institutions, through the Cross-Network Learning Community. As such, each partner institution commits to providing annual in-kind contributions, typically as online programming and professional development opportunities for future faculty but also as contributions to operations and leadership. The level of in-kind contributions is determined by the Network partners; as of 2018-19 each partner contributes two in-kind contributions every two years. Examples of in-kind contributions include semester-long graduate courses, shorter mini-courses, leadership of the CIRTL MOOCs, thematic series of drop-in presentations and asynchronous online community discussions. In-kind contributions may also include non-academic initiatives, such as the bi-annual national CIRTL Forums, and contributions to Network leadership and development.
Revenue and Expenditures – Local
Ongoing Member support for their local programs might include faculty time for leadership, staff salary support, shifting teaching loads so faculty can teach in the local CIRTL learning community, office space, and information technology.
Current Institutional Members will assist the launch of new Institutional Members. Prior work has established significant resources and capability, both in current local learning communities and cross-Network. Onboarding may include: partnering of current and new institutions for mentoring; “boot camps” led by current institutions; programmatic curricula and assessment instruments; and regional partnerships.
Revenue and Expenditures – Network
The core revenue of the CIRTL Network comprises institutional dues in support of limited central management of Network operations. The working assumption for 2023-2024 is 42 Institutional Members and dues of $13,000/member, generating revenue of $546,000.
Many backend Network operations are provided by the University of Wisconsin—Madison and the Wisconsin and WCER in return for 30% overhead on the institutional dues. These provisions include space, personnel management, IT support, business services, legal and IRB support, pre-proposal services and grant administration.
External Revenue – Development
As a major national network in higher education teaching and learning, CIRTL is well positioned to explore, develop and evaluate new initiatives in faculty preparation and network development. Examples of Network initiatives with external funding have included development of the CIRTL MOOCs (NSF) and of the CIRTL Network Commons website (Sloan).
Currently groups of CIRTL Network members also have had substantial success obtaining “CIRTL-aligned” grants. These grants are built on CIRTL principles and Network membership and provide outcomes and products to the Network, but do not fund the Network directly. Current examples include a $300K NSF IUSE Change Leadership grant, a $1.7M NSF AGEP grant, a $3M NSF IUSE Inclusive Teaching grant, a $1.8M NIH IPERT Postdoctoral Academy grant, and the $10M NSF INCLUDES Aspire Alliance, in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.
The CIRTL administrative structure must:
- Strengthen the local and cross-Network learning communities for future faculty;
- Value and make use of the diversity of all Network Members;
- Promote and support a high-functioning learning community of Network leadership, engaging members of the Network in interdependent, functional roles;
- Provide the necessary resources, including financial, to support operations of both a central office (“CIRTL Central”) and the Cross-Network Learning Community;
- Promote ongoing evaluation of outcomes throughout the organization;
- Include a transparent governance structure that is flexible enough to evolve in response to the opportunities and challenges of a major national enterprise;
- Promote CIRTL and future STEM faculty preparation beyond the Network.
Current Administrative Structure
Presently CIRTL operates with a distributed operational model administered within a university-based financial model. The Network has an interactive, collegial management structure, while maintaining the clear lines of authority and responsibility necessary to ensure high quality in administration and programs for future faculty; accountability to the Network members and funders; and fidelity to strategic directions.
On July 1, 2021, the CIRTL Network adopted a set of Constitution & Bylaws to formalize its operations. Institutional Members have primary leadership and oversight responsibility for the Network. Current CIRTL leadership consists of:
I. The CIRTL Director, Adam Fontecchio, Drexel University, Associate Director, Shannon Patton, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a small staff (CIRTL Central, University of Wisconsin-Madison) assisting in network administration and in coordination of the Cross-Network Learning Community.
II. The CIRTL Leadership Team, comprising eight total members – four drawn from the Institutional and Co-Administrative Leaders, an elected graduate student or post-doctoral scholar, and an elected at-large person, as well as Director and Associate Director – acts as an Executive Committee for the CIRTL Network. This group meets weekly.
III. The CIRTL Institutional Leaders and the Administrative Co-Leaders bear responsibility for the success of the local CIRTL learning community and programming. These leaders play a key governance role in guiding the CIRTL Network.
IV. The entire leadership of the CIRTL Network attends online meetings twice a month, one an Administrative Meeting focused on current administrative issues and one a Learning Community Meeting to share knowledge, outcomes, etc. CIRTL also has semi-annual in-person meetings at member campuses.
V. Operations and Working Groups engage members of the Network in interdependent functional roles. Action rests with the community through Operations Groups, responsible for major facets of operations, and Working Groups, who develop and execute new Network initiatives.
The administrative structure is shown graphically in Figure 1.
Figure 1. CIRTL Network administrative structure.
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CIRTL is led by a Director and Leadership Team.
The core of CIRTL is comprised of an Institutional Leader and Administrative Co-Leader from each member institution. Each member institution also has a local learning community. The Alumni Network is an offshoot of the CIRTL Network.
CIRTL Central staff report through an Assistant Director and Associate Director to the Director
CIRTL has 2 standing operations groups, the Membership Operations Group (MOG) and the Cross-Network Operations Group (CNOG). The Network also has the CIRTL Change Leadership Working group. All standing and working groups report to the Leadership Team.
Table A1. Benefits of institutional participation in the CIRTL Network.
Enhancing Local Future Faculty Preparation Programs and Impact
- Expanded opportunities for future faculty preparation at your university, providing students with:
- Skills in implementing and advancing evidence-based teaching
- Capability to enhance success of diverse learners
- Awareness of national landscape in STEM learning
- Preparation for successful job searches
- Early-career success
- Resources and programming from successful learning communities of CIRTL Network Tested evaluation instruments
- High-impact, evidence-based STEM course re-design initiatives via Teaching-as-Research
- Enhanced undergraduate and graduate research mentoring
- Core ideas and learning outcomes as a foundational and connecting structure for university
Cross-Network Opportunities for Future Faculty Preparation in Teaching and Learning
- Opportunity to learn with future and current faculty from diverse institutions and experiences
- Online graduate courses, such as:
- The College Classroom
- Diversity in the College Classroom
- Effective Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning
- Research Mentor Training
- Creating Assessments and Evaluation Plans
- Planning Your Teaching-as-Research Project
- Career connections of future faculty to a national network of current and other faculty
National Presence in Graduate Education and Post-Doctoral Professional Development
- Recognition as leader of national movement to prepare the nation’s future STEM faculty Leader in the use of MOOCs to enhance the preparation of STEM teaching.
- Connection with a recognized national network for seeking ambitious funding opportunities
- A diverse learning community of colleagues for collaboration and learning
- Shared articulation and development of learning outcomes
- Enhanced disciplinary research funding (broader impact, CAREER awards, NIH training grants)
- Enhanced graduate student and post-doc recruiting and placement
- Access a collection of CIRTL Research Briefs
The Center for Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL; www.cirtl.net) was established in 2003 as one of two National Science Foundation Centers for Teaching and Learning in higher education. CIRTL began as a collaboration of Michigan State University (MSU), the Pennsylvania State University and the University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW; administrative home). Its first success was establishing that major research universities would be willing and able to prepare their STEM graduate students to be both superb researchers and excellent teachers. Crucially, longitudinal research also showed that CIRTL graduates become early-career faculty using evidence-based teaching practices.
As the next step toward a national impact, in 2007 with further NSF support CIRTL launched a prototype CIRTL Network of six diverse universities: University of Colorado Boulder, Howard University, MSU, Texas A&M University, Vanderbilt University, and UW. By 2010 this prototype CIRTL Network was preparing nearly 1500 future faculty each year. Equally important, this prototype CIRTL Network demonstrated that, in addition to vital local CIRTL learning communities on each campus, a cross-Network learning community could thrive and allow future faculty at every institution to benefit from the diversity of the Network universities.
As the next step toward opening CIRTL to all major research universities, in Fall 2012 the CIRTL Network expanded from 6 to 23 research universities. A similar large expansion occurred in Fall 2016, settling at 37 universities by Fall 2019. These expansions were supported by a quilt of funding support provided by the NSF, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In Fall 2019, the CIRTL Network began recruiting and accepting new memberships on an annual basis. Currently at the end of 2023, the CIRTL Network comprises 45 research universities and will accept its next cohort of university members in Fall 2024. Both the local and the cross-Network learning communities of the expanded CIRTL Network have thrived, and currently serve more than 2,500 STEM future faculty each year. Since Fall 2018 the CIRTL Network has operated independent of external funding, although the Network members continue to receive significant funding for new initiatives.