University of Portland STEM Education and Outreach Center
The University of Portland Science Technology Engineering Mathematics Education and Outreach Center is a collaborative unit among the Colleges of Arts and Sciences (CAS), Education, and Engineering whose mission is to strengthen STEM education in P-18 settings.
University of Portland
Profile submitted by Patricia Morrell
Vision and Goals
The Center has the following goals:
Coordinate outreach efforts to P-12 teachers and students for regional and national audiences, with a particular focus on the North Portland community;
Continue to develop interdisciplinary initiatives to raise the quality of STEM education for UP students;
Provide professional development opportunities on STEM pedagogical issues for University of Portland faculty.
Serve as a repository for STEM education ideas and resources for the University and North Portland community;
Advance research on STEM education.
The STEM Center is a collection of interested faculty members from the College of Arts and Science (Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Mathematics, Physics, Theology), School of Engineering, School of Education, and School of Business. We work independently but report to and are funded by the Provost's office. The Center is organized as having an Executive Committee (consisting of the Director and three other faculty) and a Leadership Team of 33 faculty from various disciplines. There is no physical space. The site is "run" from the Director's faculty office space.
Are there advantages of being structured this way?
The Director and Executive Committee plan a draft of the Center's annual goals/activities which are then presented to the Leadership Team who edit. The final plan of action is jointly determined, which promotes buy in and support from all the various entities cross campus.
Are there particular challenges that result from this structure?
We don't have as large of a presence on campus as might occur if we were a separate Center with its own office.
The Provost's Office provides a funding budget for the Center to use as it sees fit to promote its mission and meet its goals. The Office of Development also looked for grants and private funding. We currently have a sponsor for the Family STEM Night. Additionally, STEM Center faculty apply for interdisciplinary grants.
How has this funding structure influenced the undergraduate STEM education programming the center offers?
We carve out a piece of the funding pie to support UG activities and programs. Particular grants focus on what we can do as well.
What are the specific advantages of having a center funded in this way?
Some funding is always available and special events requiring additional funding can be negotiated.
What are the challenges?
The revenue stream is limited and not consistent year to year.
Has this funding structure has changed over time?
Our bottom line has increased annually.
Description of Programming
Family STEM Day--an annual event featuring our STEM students and faculty providing hands on STEM activities for K-8 students and their families
Graduate School Panel--various STEM faculty from a variety of institutions come to speak to our students about graduate school opportunities in STEM, how to apply, receive assistantships, etc.
PD Workshop for Faculty--we provide a half-day workshop on a topic of interest to our faculty (e.g., culturally relevant pedagogy, retention of underrepresented students in STEM)
PD for K-12 Teachers--each summer we offer professional development opportunities to teachers; topics vary annually
Speaker Series--this is the first year we are offering a speaker series to our campus community (students/faculty/interested parties).
Successes and Impacts
The strongest impact is probably achieved through Family STEM Night. About 50 undergraduate students are involved in manning stations visited by 200 K-8 students (and as the name suggests, their parents and other siblings participate as well!). Through this event we reach a wide range of community schools. Numbers of volunteers and students/schools are documented through sign up sheets. We have done this two years (previously we took our Night to individual community schools)and numbers of UG students and K-8 students have increased from the first year to the second.
Evaluation and Assessment
How does your center demonstrate its value, both in terms of assessing its own programming and responding to external evaluation?
We maintain a list and description of our activities, with head counts and participant evaluations when possible.
Elements Contributing to Success
We have strong inter-disciplinary support!