Center for STEM Education established

Sarah Horton, right, helps students operate a robot during the Center for STEM Education's National Lab Day activities.

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May 5, 2010

As the nation falls behind other countries in math and science fields, Bradley University stands at the forefront of addressing and alleviating those gaps.

With the introduction of a new STEM center, Bradley plans to provide teacher education, research and collaboration opportunities to its present and future students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

“We are making a commitment to bring science and technology education to our community, our region and beyond,” said Bradley President Joanne Glasser. “The best is yet to come. I look forward with confidence to many new initiatives as Bradley leads the way in STEM areas.”

The STEM center formally brings together community resources, as well as resources within various colleges at Bradley. The center’s broad mission is to improve future STEM education, provide advantages for STEM students and encourage STEM learning before students enter college, said co-director Dr. Kelly McConnaughay, an associate dean in the college of liberal arts and sciences.

“Our mission is to help prepare the next generation of STEM practitioners, the next generation of STEM educators, and to create a more STEM-savvy citizenry,” she said.

More than 60 faculty members and at least as many students have already worked on STEM-related projects. Bradley students are inherently service-driven and the center provides one more outlet for students to serve the community by connecting with local elementary and high school students.

“It’s a better avenue to bring their passion to younger students,” McConnaughay said. “They’ve connected with students, and we see them blossom and thrive. And they love it.”

The center builds on already established programs to give STEM students a boost financially, academically and socially. It will better prepare Bradley students to enter STEM teaching fields by providing an educator’s network, professional development projects, summer research internships and research experiences, as well as scholarships for economically challenged students. Members of the center’s external board will provide insight and suggestions, as well as collaborative opportunities.

Even students not in STEM majors will experience benefits from the center in their general education science courses.

“The focus of our general education courses will be process-based, in addition to general knowledge,” McConnaughay said. “So students understand how science knowledge is tested, retested, sometimes rejected and how it moves forward.”

K-12 students in the community also have opportunities through the STEM Center. Those include summer research internships, chemistry contests, national lab days, engineering camps and female-based programs to attract young women to STEM fields.

Those programs then produce the next generation of STEM students, who matriculate to institutions and major in STEM fields. The center could emphasize Bradley as a national leader in STEM fields, said co-director Dr. Mike Risen, an associate professor in educational leadership and human development.

“We could, in the next five to six years, become almost a national distinction in our ability to provide to the STEM field,” he said.

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