How STEM policy innovations rise to the state higher education governance system's agenda during a period of economic recession
Leming, Heidi Scheusner
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The economic downturn in 2007 forced higher education institutions and agencies to think strategically about how to support institutional missions and academic initiatives. The purpose of this dissertation is to describe how STEM innovations emerge on the state higher education agency agenda during a time of economic recession by focusing on the external influences that raise particular STEM innovations to the state policy agenda. Through a comparative case study of three states at different stages of policy innovation, including one state viewed as a “non-adopter,” the view of policy leaders on the role of national and regional networks in guiding practice is examined. These cases describe the internal and external influences on STEM innovations through a narrative chronology of events and analyze the diffusion of innovations using two diffusion theories – national interaction model and regional diffusion. A third theoretical framework used to guide this study, institutional theory, describes state level discourse as it relates to the neoliberal ideology guiding state governing boards in STEM policy innovation. Findings identified how federal incentives and national professional networks shape policy leaders’ opinions on STEM innovations.