Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity


The Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity (CERSE) is housed at the University of Washington Department of Sociology.  Our center focuses on conducting high quality program evaluation and research to improve equity and broaden representation in STEM fields, with a focus on higher education.   We help meet the challenges of the emerging workforce: recruitment, retention, and advancement of women and underrepresented minorities.

In 2016, we changed our name from the Center for Workforce Development to better reflect the type of work that we do and why we do it.

Why We Do What We Do

  • We believe that STEM fields should be equitable and accessible to all people, not just people from STEM’s dominant identity groups (who are often white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied, and/or male identified).
  • Significant changes must be made in order for STEM fields to be accessible, welcoming, and desirable to individuals belonging to excluded identity groups.
  • Our program evaluation and research offer evidence-based insights toward reforming systems and improving policies and practices.

What We Do & How We Do It

Integration of Research, Evaluation, & Consulting Multiple Methodologies Relationships Critical Lens
We see research and evaluation as complementary. We choose the right methods to fit each individual question, context, and population We establish and foster relationships with the people we work with because we respect the work that they do. We operate with a critical orientation. This means that issues of social justice inform our thinking and acting.

Current Highlights

Dr. Knaphus-Soran and Dr. Litzler to Lead a 5-Year Action-Oriented Research Project on Persistence of Minoritized Students in STEM

CERSE and the UW Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity (OMA&D) received a new five-year, $4 million dollar grant to expand the efforts of the Pacific Northwest Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (PNW LSAMP). As part of this grant, Emily Knaphus-Soran and Liz Litzler will lead a five-year research effort in collaboration with educational researchers at Boise State University (BSU), Oregon State University (OSU), Portland State University (PSU), and Washington State University (WSU). Our research will take an assets-based and intersectional approach, examining factors that contribute to persistence in STEM among systemically marginalized students. The project will be multifaceted, including a multi-year, mixed-methods study conducted by CERSE, as well as four “sprint studies” conducted by researchers at BSU, OSU, PSU, and WSU. Each year-long sprint study will focus on the needs and experiences of students on one PNW LSAMP campus, contributing to a nuanced understanding of sense of belonging for systemically marginalized students in STEM. As part of the project, CERSE will also lead research-to-action forums that will result in actionable student-informed improvements to university programs across the alliance.

Dr. Litzler appointed to Vice Chair of the American Society for Engineering Education Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the 2019-2020 Society year.  


Logo for the ASEE CDEI committeeDr. Litzler will succeed the position of Chair in June 2020 and will succeed the position of Past Chair in June 2021. The charge of the committee is to identify, implement, and oversee the actions associated with ASEE’s Diversity Strategic Plan. Its goal is to ensure that there is responsibility, continuity and accountability for progress regarding ASEE and diversity activities.


Dr. Margherio named Virtual Visiting Scholar for the ADVANCE Resource and Coordination (ARC) Network

Cara Margherio has been named Virtual Visiting Scholar for the ADVANCE Resource and Coordination (ARC) Network, a program funded through the National Science Foundation and administered by the Association for Women in Science. The Virtual Visiting Scholars program provides researchers across disciplines an opportunity to pursue meta-analysis, meta-synthesis, and big data curation on topics critical to STEM faculty equity. Cara’s project is grounded in a critical race theory framework and centers the experiences of women faculty of color in a meta-synthesis of research on mentoring for women faculty in STEM.


Dr. Litzler and Dr. Affolter Presented a Webinar on the Basics of DEI Evaluation from the TECAID Project- Check it out on Vimeo!

Litzler, E, and Affolter, E. (2018).  Evaluating Department Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Change: Tips from TECAID’s Evaluators.  Webinar on June 13, 2018.  Attendees of live presentation: 108.


RED Participatory Action Research (REDPAR)

Through the NSF-funded RED Participatory Action Research (REDPAR) project, CERSE is collaborating with Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology to conduct participatory action research with change agents who are engaged in making change on their campuses through the NSF Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) Program. In addition to providing RED recipients with a customized change curriculum and ongoing support for their projects, we are longitudinally tracking their processes and outcomes to better understand how change occurs within academic departments.

See the Research Page for tipsheets from this project and a five-minute “Hi-Five” talk about Strategies for Building Shared Vision presented at the 2018 CoNECD conference.


Recent Journal Publications by CERSE Staff related to CERSE work:

Yen, J.W., Riskin, E.A., Margherio, C., Spyridakis, J.H., Carrigan, C.M., & Cauce, A.M. (2019). Promoting Gender Diversity in STEM Faculty through Leadership Development: From local and national leadership workshops to the online LEAD-it-Yourself! toolkit. Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: An International Journal.

DuBow, W., Hug, S., Serafini, B. & Litzler, E. (2018). Expanding Our Understanding of Backbone Organizations in Collective Impact Initiatives. Journal of Community Development, 49(2).

DuBow, W., & Litzler, E. (2018). The Development and Use of a Theory of Change to Align Programs and Evaluation in a Complex, National Initiative. American Journal of Evaluation.

Litzler, E. & Lorah, J.A. (2018). Degree Aspirations of Undergraduate Engineering Students at the Intersection of Race/Ethnicity and Gender. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 24(2): 165-193.

López, C. M., Margherio, C., Abraham, L., and Fenghali-Bostwick, C. (2018). Gender Disparities in Faculty Rank: Factors that Affect Advancement of Women Scientists at Academic Medical Centers. Social Sciences, 7(4), 62.

Yen, J.W., Horner-Devine, M.C., Margherio, C., & Mizumori, S.J. (2017). The BRAINS Program: Transforming Career Development to Advance Diversity and Equity in Neuroscience. Neuron, 94(3), 426-430.


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