Center for STEM Education at East Carolina University

The Center for STEM Education supports K-16 students and educators to provide a workforce to meet the economic and personal needs of the region.

Department of Mathematics, Science and Instructional Technology Education, College of Education, East Carolina
Established: originally in 1980's but reestablished in 2012

Profile submitted by Angelo Collins

Vision and Goals

The goals for the Center include: (a) establishing continuing relationships with STEM-oriented businesses and industries, K-16 educators, and community leaders in eastern North Carolina; (b) working collaboratively to secure funding from federal agencies and private foundations to improve the quality of K-16 STEM education and STEM workforce development; (c) promoting an educational environment in the region that nurtures STEM education for K-16 students, including preparation and instruction for future student employment in STEM professions or teacher preparation for K-12 STEM education.
Additionally, the STEM Education Center would serve as a regional clearinghouse for STEM teacher professional development and for dissemination of information to the public regarding STEM Center activities.

The vision immediately prior to the new director are similar with a slightly different nuance. The mission of the Center for STEM Education is to strengthen the STEM education enterprise in Eastern North Carolina by improving the quality of K-12 teaching; providing strong experiences in STEM disciplines for all K-16 students while increasing the number of graduates pursuing careers in STEM disciplines; creating a supportive environment for multidisciplinary research, evaluation, and assessment while bridging the gap between educators and STEM professionals; and encouraging community engagement that leads to increased university partnerships with school districts, business and industry, and the community.

Center/Program Structure

Centers for Science Education, which morphed into Centers for STEM Education were established in the 1980's in North Carolina as a vehicle to provide service and relationships between universities and the public, especially public schools. In 2010 the state-wide network of Centers was disbanded. There was a suggestion that the Center for STEM Education be dissolved.

Instead I was hired in August 2012 to rebuild and revitalize the Center. Only four Centers remain in North Carolina. Administratively, the Center resides in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Instructional Technology Education in the College of Education. The Center is managed by a full-time Executive Director who is a fixed-term (non-tenure) faculty member at the rank of professor. There is a full-time Administrative Assistant and a number of rotating student workers, retired and current teachers. My hope is that by August there will be a full-time Assistant Director. Several faculty members in Education, Arts and Sciences, Technology and Computer Science and Human Ecology have housed projects in the Center. The Center is funded though monies allocated by state through the college and department, through fee-for service and the expectation that eventually through external funding. During my initial year I participated in writing seven grant applications, all of them with colleagues across campus and some including local businesses.

Description of Programming

As the new Director of the Center, I inherited four programs that have been well received in Eastern North Carolina. Summer Ventures in Science and Mathematics (SVSM) is a four-week state-funded residential program for rising high school juniors and seniors in North Carolina. This summer 127 students were placed in one of ten sections taught by full-time university faculty with teaching assistants. Students attended classes and conducted bench-type research projects, which were presented to peers, parents and the public. Faculty judges chose winners, some of whom will go on to a statewide presentation. Evaluation is through survey and interviews provided by the state.

The Center is an endorsed site for Advanced Placement (AP) Summer Institutes which we supplement with an AP Review Day and AP Teachers Day. AP Institutes are evaluated using surveys provided by the College Board. In addition the Center co-sponsored STEM Girls Day and High School STEM day which brought 100 middle grades girls and 300 high school juniors respectively to for a day to attend sessions offered by professors that highlight the applications of STEM in interesting ways. The Center also is active in supporting a state-funded MSP program, the regional Science and Engineering fair and the regional Science Olympiad.

Successes and Impacts

At this stage in its history, the Center can point to the four programs described above, two of which are evaluated externally and the collaboration with colleagues across campus that are deemed successful because of our grant-writing activity. Less successful but taking increased prominence is the Center's Lending Library of over 5000 items such as probes and scales and magnets and counting tiles that are available for teachers to check out to use for instruction. The lending library has been completely restructured this summer. The next internal project is the redesign of the website so that the many activities happening in Eastern North Carolina can be found at one site and the website can be used for instructional purposes. As we grow, we hope to offer opportunities for evaluation for the many small programs (six students for one week in the summer) in this rural area.

Elements Contributing to Success

Eastern North Carolina is in a period of economic transition from a rural economy to a small manufacturing economy in a very rural area. The two biggest factors that contribute to the success of the Center are the fact that in some form it has been around a long time and the commitment of many stakeholders, including local business people, university faculty and administration, public figures and teachers, to improve the quality of STEM Education in the area as a necessary economic driver.

Supplemental Materials

2012-13 Annual Report (Microsoft Word 66kB Jul22 13)