Our Work

Sharing Knowledge. Building Communities.

We accomplish our goals through a combination of mentorship, upskilling, networking, and community-building in the areas of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion). We recruit and provide training in 21st Century skills to individuals from underrepresented backgrounds and host events with expert contributors and conduct research around these issues.

Our Focus Areas

Diversity & Inclusion

Host events, gatherings, and workshops to facilitate direct networking opportunities, as well as face-to-face knowledge exchange. Activities are focused on creating more opportunities for participants to engage in professional development and hone their interpersonal communication skills.

STEAM Education

Through our STEAM programs, we bring scientific knowledge to anyone interested in learning more about STEAM fields whether they intend to transition to becoming scientists themselves or simply wish to incorporate the tenets of scientific thought processes into their world-changing work.


SPEC offers short modular stackable courses that are narrowly focused on specific skills critical to participation and success in the modern workforce. In addition to learning marketable skills, learners earn digital badges, which they can add to their professional networking sites and portfolios.

Participatory Action Research

Use participatory, data-driven research to create actions, initiatives, and propose solutions, so people may meet other members of their communities, so as to promote sustainable relationship building, social innovation, and joint action.

Mentorship & Training

Provide mentoring, training, and internships to people from underrepresented groups to help them get into the job market and become financially independent and sustainable.

Deliberative Conversations

Designed to increase cultural awareness through discourse among learners and facilitators on challenging topics, these discussions assemble a diversity of perspectives around a difficult or controversial topic, and encourages participants to collaboratively develop and advocate ideas for inclusive solutions.

Our Programs

Community Innovation and Technology Internship for a Sustainable and Equitable Nation (CITISEN)

The goal of the CITISEN program is to provide personalized service-learning experiences to help individuals from underrepresented backgrounds achieve financial independence and become community leaders. CITISEN research associates, or simply CITISENs, are connected with experts in their areas of interest to receive mentorship and training. CITISENs are encouraged to research their interests and look for opportunities to contribute in their local communities. Through the CITISEN program and partnerships with community organizations, SPEC offers research assistantships that give interns an opportunity to gain paid work experience applying their skills towards community development and sustainability initiatives. Want to become a CITISEN? Send us a message to get involved.

SPEC Learning

SPEC Learning is an online educational platform that offers microcredentials, stackable competency-based short microcredentials, focused on bridging skill gaps. The first FREE microcredential offered by SPEC Learning is Office Street Smarts, based on the 2016 survey data collected by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). This 3-week microcredential is designed to provide essential competency training, including organization, project management, and interpersonal skills, such as teamwork, diversity, communication, and persuasiveness ("Bridge That Gap," 2016). Interested in enrolling Office Street Smarts? Fill out the interest form to learn more.


Bridge that gap: Analyzing the student skill index. (2013, Fall). Retrieved July 17, 2016, from http://www.chegg.com/pulse


I transitioned into tech in an effort to implement change for social good - I was ecstatic to stumble upon SPEC! The mentorship I received through SPEC was integral in developing the confidence and skills I needed to land my first coding role.
– Julia Catalano
When Dr. Rogers asked me to be a part of her new initiative called SPEC with Joe Torreggiani. I was honored and excited to be a part of their new adventure to help change the world we currently live in. Dr. Rogers couldn’t have asked me to join forces with her and Joe at a better time, given the current social injustices happening across the country and also right in our backyards in Buffalo NY. I have had the ability to be viewed as a research intern where I have expressed my interests in website design and furthering my passion to bring awareness to becoming anti-racist. This past June of 2020, I co-founded a grassroots activism group called, Citizens for Change-Lockport, where we have held race panels and started forming sub-committees to address the startling lack of diversity within the community. Being an intern for SPEC has given me the tools to allow my grassroots activism group to grow, but also I have been given the confidence to express my ideas pertaining to a micro-credential that gives college graduates help toward finding their first job after graduating. I am excited and hopeful for the future of SPEC.
– Bethany Patterson