Rebecca Zarch’s research into the legacy of nine Advanced Technological Education centers has found that significant aspects of the centers’ work are continuing years after their National Science Foundation funding ended.
While looking for what has been sustained, Zarch is gaining insights into the leadership practices that led to successful operations and enduring impact.
“The biggest finding is nobody is doing this alone. The partnerships really make a difference and developing that network of partners—the broad-based support—is something that needs to be done intentionally and [to] start early,” Zarch said during a recent phone interview. She is principal investigator of the Epilogue Project (ATE Award #1821248) at the Sage Fox Group of Amherst, Massachusetts.
The report scheduled for release in 2021 will focus on what has been sustained and will trace the processes that facilitated continuation of efforts. It will not be a comprehensive history or evaluation of the centers.
“Sustainability here does not mean buildings and people. Sustainability is ideas,” explained Gerhard Salinger, who as co-principal investigator serves as project advisor. Salinger was a co-lead program director of the ATE program at the National Science Foundation from 1993 to 2012. He likens Zarch’s work to that of a historian who examines the intellectual output that flowed from a civilization rather than the physical structures that remain standing.
“We’re not about the bricks and mortar; we’re about the ideas....A lot of people in the program think that sustainability means that the people are still there after the money has left. And that doesn’t happen. It’s really the ideas. How did the world change because these people were there?” Salinger said.