Mission: To provide leadership as a catalyst for ensuring availability and accessibility for high quality STEM learning and career awareness experiences for all K-12 learners so that our children are college, career, and community ready.

Office for Outreach and International Affairs, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Established: 2002


Profile submitted by Susan Magliaro

Vision and Goals

Vision: That all of Virginia's K-12 students have access to high-quality STEM learning experiences in both formal and informal learning environments so that they can develop the STEM literacy needed in their own lives, as well as to ensure thriving communities.

Goals: Given our university's land-grant mission, our goals reach out to improve the quality of life.

  1. Bring visibility to STEM K-12 learning experiences and opportunities across the Commonwealth.
  2. Provide STEM-network leadership through communication and convening of key constituencies.
  3. Broker resources and opportunities among network partners.
  4. Conduct programs to enhance student learning and STEM career awareness and to provide professional development.
  5. Work collaboratively with network partners to advocate for STEM policies, practices, programs, and people.

Center/Program Structure

Our initiative operates out of the university's Office for Outreach and International Affairs, and is based in the School of Education. The key personnel include .25 FTE faculty and a full-time graduate assistant, along with staff support as needed. The actual functioning is supported by a cadre of key contacts in each of the colleges and university's institutes. This group functions as an advisory board and provides direct connection with each of the members' outreach programs. VT-STEM is also connected directly with the K-12 school divisions, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. These connections enable internal and external collaboration and communication on a daily basis.

We are currently in a growth mode to expand VT-STEM to serve the region with additional resources and opportunities for collaboration. The plan envisions that this expansion will take place over the next five years and will necessitate full-time personnel assigned to the initiative.

Description of Programming

  1. Networking: Direct face-to-face contact with all VT colleges and institutes to give visibility to their outreach programs and to connect them with K-12 school divisions for program development as part of grant activities. Direct contact from VA's K-12 school divisions with VT's available programs to provide enrichment or long-term collaborations (134 school divisions). Direct contact with local community colleges, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, and local businesses and industries to promote VT faculty and programs, as well as with K-12 teachers and their needs (approximately 60 contacts).
  2. Communication: A website and listserv to share information with all participants (356 members).
  3. Kindergarten-to-College (K2C): A career and college awareness experience for fifth-grade students from across the state's Title I schools to bring the children to campus for an orientation experience. We served over 500 students from six schools last year, and will grow with planned expansion.
  4. STEMulate Your Imagination: A 3-day teacher professional development summer institute to engage a small cadre of teachers in the design of problem-based learning curricula to implement in their classrooms the following year. Twelve teachers will be followed through the year to learn about their implementations, successes and challenges, and ways to better design teacher preparation at VT.
  5. Virginia Science Festival: Program planning for the statewide science festival including recruitment for almost 150 exhibits, demonstrations, and presentations at the Virginia Tech location alone. This past year, over 10,000 people participated in over 10 locations around the state.

Successes and Impacts

  1. Networking and brokering: We have approximately 60 people from our key stakeholder groups (i.e., university, K-12, Virginia community college, business and industry, the Science Museum of Western Virginia) working on our new strategic plan. At least 10 new partnerships have begun this year to enhance STEM programming (e.g., development of cadre of VT STEM undergraduates to work in the Science Museum of Western Virginia as volunteers; connection with local company to work with a middle school mathematics teacher on the development of problem-based curriculum)
  2. Kindergarten-to-College (K2C): We have grown from serving one school/125 children to 6 schools/500+ children in four years. Data are collected from the children before and after their visits about the experience and what was learned about STEM. These students are being followed through high school to assess college and career decision-making. The program is being replicated with other colleges/universities around the state.

Elements Contributing to Success

  1. Connections to academic units: VT-STEM is in constant communication with the university's academic units, at both the department and college levels, to ensure that those units have the visibility that they want/need to advance their work.
  2. Campus culture that values outreach: Almost every department has some type of outreach program with K-12. Often this is faculty-member driven, but with others (e.g., Physics), its outreach initiative is an elective course for undergraduates.

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