The acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) used to be familiar only to educators and those working in those disciplines. Today, a “STEM” Google search delivers 234 million results, due in large part to the federal government’s focus on the topic in response to industry concerns about the lack of qualified American employees in these areas.
For more than a decade, Villanova University College of Engineering has been committed to STEM education outreach. The College participates in a number of national STEM endeavors, including LEAD’s Summer Engineering Institute, and also has established its own programs, such as VESTED (Villanova Engineering, Science, and Technology Enrichment and Development) and NovaCANE (Villanova Community Action by New Engineers). In fall 2014, Dr. Stephen Jones, the College’s Associate Dean of Students and Strategic Programs, took the University’s commitment to a new level when he launched the Villanova STEM Collaborative.
“As interest in STEM education and activities continues to grow, it seems to me that everyone involved will benefit from sharing our knowledge and experience,” says Dr. Jones. The goal of the collaborative is to expand the growth of STEM schools, programs and resources throughout the Delaware Valley. In addition, Dr. Jones hopes that this effort will inspire more local and national companies to develop partnerships with STEM schools and universities. The intended outcome: An increase in students who pursue degrees in engineering and science, and who become STEM professionals.
The collaborative’s 14 original members represent programs with a range of depth and resources. They include public and Catholic high schools with STEM programming built into the curriculum, STEM charter and magnet schools, and the City of Philadelphia, which is involved in the “US 2020” STEM initiative, whose goal is to increase the number of STEM-prepared professionals by 2020. Lockheed Martin and Dow Company are the group’s corporate partners.
At its first gathering in November, members discussed topics of interest for future meetings, which included sharing best practices, learning what others are doing with respect to STEM education and activities, and determining how faculty and staff can better support STEM students. Recognizing that many STEM programs in the suburbs are “pay to play,” the collaborative also wants to consider ways in which all students can have access to these opportunities. The group is particularly interested in working together to have a bigger impact on STEM in Philadelphia.
In addition to topics of interest, Villanova STEM Collaborative members used their first meeting to brain-storm specific STEM issues that need to be addressed. Among those issues are teacher innovation, encouraging more young women to consider computer science, the role of mentoring and industry collaboration, and the possibility of hiring second-career professionals to teach STEM-related classes.
“Our first gathering was encouraging, and we’ve decided to get together about once a quarter, visiting different schools, corporate partners and universities,” says Dr. Jones. He adds, “We hope that new members will join us.”
For more information about the Villanova STEM Collaborative, contact Dr. Stephen Jones at S.Jones@Villanova.edu or 610-519-5439.