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ORAU Sponsoring Institutions explore education strategies to bridge U.S. STEM workforce gap

STEM education experts discuss curricula and policy changes to improve student performance and increase enrollment in STEM disciplines

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2012
FY12-19

ORAU Vice President Dr. Arlene Garrison introduces a panel discussion at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Council of Sponsoring Institutions.

ORAU Vice President Dr. Arlene Garrison introduces a panel discussion at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Council of Sponsoring Institutions. Panel members (left to right) Dr. Mark Leddy, National Science Foundation; Dr. Susan Singer, Carleton College; Dr. Donna Llewellyn, Georgia Institute of Technology; Dr. Marion Usselman, Georgia Institute of Technology; and Dr. Adam Maltese, Indiana University.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—More than 100 representatives from leading U.S. colleges and universities attended ORAU’s 67th Annual Meeting of the Council of Sponsoring Institutions for a two-day workshop focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education. Speakers addressed curricular, funding and policy approaches to improve student performance and increase enrollment in STEM disciplines.

“With a consortium of 105 Ph.D.-granting institutions, we knew we had an opportunity with this event to convene the right people to discuss how we could have a significant impact on developing our nation’s STEM workforce,” said ORAU President and CEO Andy Page. “Our nation has many more science and technology jobs than qualified workers, and ORAU is committed to closing that gap.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Susan R. Singer, the Laurence McKinley Gould Professor of the Natural Sciences at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., noted that only about 40 percent of students who intend to major in a STEM discipline actually do so, while degree completion rates are about 20 percent higher in non-STEM fields. She provided eight “promising practices” for designing curricula and learning environments, increasing student interaction, engaging students in research and continuing faculty development. She estimates that increasing STEM degree completion rates just 10 percent with no change in enrollment, would add 750,000 people to the STEM workforce.

Other speakers focused on opportunities to increase the pipeline of students pursuing degrees in STEM disciplines. Dr. Mark Leddy, program director of research in disabilities education for the National Science Foundation, spoke to the opportunity to expand our nation’s STEM workforce by making STEM education and careers more accessible to people with disabilities, who today make up only one percent of doctoral degree recipients in these disciplines, according to Leddy. Dr. Donna Llewellyn, director, and Dr. Marion Usselman, associate director, at Georgia Institute for Technology’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing, presented the opportunities for universities to help develop more effective K-12 STEM curricula.

“STEM has been in the spotlight for years, so with this event we wanted to focus on practical improvements that our universities can make now to advance STEM education,” explained Dr. Arlene Garrison, vice president for university partnerships at ORAU. “Sharing the outstanding STEM successes within our consortium and sharing those practices and increasing collaboration with other institutions and agencies is critical to accelerate progress.”

A list of speakers and topics and links to presentations are available online.

In addition to the workshop, council members, along with local middle school students, participated in STEM learning activities provided by The Mind Trekkers of Michigan Technological University. These fun, hands-on activities are designed to engage K-12 students in scientific principles. See more on ORAU’s Flickr photostream.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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