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Level Playing Field Institute


Level Playing Field Institute is committed to eliminating the barriers faced by underrepresented people of color in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and fostering their untapped talent for the advancement of our nation.


Founded by Freada Kapor Klein in 2001, our organization was first known as the “Institute for Inclusive Work Environments.” The aims were to rigorously and creatively address why diversity efforts had failed in the for-profit world, how diversity could succeed, and how civility, fairness, and opportunity could be improved in workplaces. Recognizing the importance of educational preparation for access to good jobs, the focus area of the Institute for Inclusive Work Environments was expanded to incorporate higher education, thus prompting the name change to “Level Playing Field Institute.” In 2004, Level Playing Field Institute launched the SMASH program. Since the program’s inception, 100% of our 178 alumni have graduated from high school and 96% intended to enroll in four-year universities immediately upon graduation.

Q. Who do you serve?

A. LPFI runs two STEM-focused education programs for low-income students of color: The Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH): A rigorous three-year enrichment program for high potential students of color in under-resourced high schools who excel in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). SMASH: Prep: A pipeline project for African American male students in the 6th – 8th grades. The program has been designed to enhance their proficiency in mathematics, science and technology. Lastly, Level Playing Field Institute seeks to ensure fairness from the classroom to the boardroom by conducting rigorous research in K-12, higher education and the workplace. The research agenda focuses on two critical areas: hidden bias and inequity across contexts, and improving access and opportunity for underrepresented groups.

Q. What is your organization’s proudest accomplishment?

Every day we meet students who have the passion and creativity necessary to succeed in STEM fields but might not have the resources or support systems to pursue these paths. Their courage and dedication to face their own challenges and pave the way for others in something we take great pride in.

Q. What is Level Playing Field Institute’s greatest need?

We strive to provide stellar support and inspiring experiences to our amazing Scholars. We do this through our intensive 5-week summer program and academic year programming focused; on college readiness; civic engagement and volunteering, coaching and advising; STEM exposure and peer-to-peer networking. LPFI is always looking for those who are committed to ending the disparities our young academics face. We look for those willing to partner with us either by donating funds to our programs or volunteering their time, and any support we receive for our programming is greatly appreciated.

Q. What are the organization’s plans for the future?

LPFI’s goal is to broaden our impact within and beyond California by expanding the SMASH program from our four current sites of Stanford University, UC Berkeley, UCLA & the University of Southern California. We are currently exploring the opportunity to expand the SMASH program at other Colleges and Universities throughout the United States.

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