Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP)

Professional development, programs, and university, school, and community partnerships for authentic STEM teaching and learning.

School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University
Established: 2006

Profile submitted by Kemi Jona, PhD

Vision and Goals

The Office of STEM Education Partnership's (OSEP) mission is to connect K-12 students and teachers to the STEM resources of Northwestern University and beyond.

Center/Program Structure

Housed within the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) at Northwestern University, OSEP consists of 11 full-time staff including scientists, education researchers, curriculum development specialists, software developers, and experienced K-12 educators. OSEP staff combines cutting-edge STEM knowledge and research with the pedagogical expertise needed to design innovative teaching and learning programs, technologies, and resources that invigorate teachers and excite students.

OSEP Director, Dr. Kemi Jona, is a Research Professor of Learning Sciences and Computer Science. As both Professor and Director of OSEP, Dr. Jona leads research and development projects in STEM curriculum design, cyberlearning, and online and blended learning models.

Internal, baseline funding for OSEP is provided by the Vice President for Research and the Dean of SESP while external funding comes from diverse federal, private foundation, and corporate grants.

Description of Programming

Founded in 2006 OSEP develops education programs and strong partnerships to support Northwestern University engagement and outreach in K-12 STEM education; integrate authentic research and practice and K-12 STEM education; and develop scalable and sustainable 'broader impacts' plans and activities.

  • Programs: OSEP provides professional development for K-12 teachers and develops hands-on, inquiry-based STEM curricula, technologies, and programs for both in-school and out-of-school time learning. OSEP connects Northwestern University faculty and graduate students to K-12 teachers and students through mentoring, research and job shadowing experiences, curriculum development projects, and capacity building programs.
    • OSEP has 11 STEM education programs
    • OSEP launched its first out-of-school time learning program, FUSE, in 2011.
    • OSEP submits an average of 11 grants per year to fund OSEP-initiated and designed programs.
    • Since 2008, OSEP has received 26 grants from federal, corporate, and private foundation sources to fund our work.
  • Partnerships: OSEP develops partnership initiatives that facilitate links between resources at Northwestern University and K-12 schools, industry, nonprofits, libraries, museums, and other community organizations throughout Illinois, the U.S. and the world. These partnerships enhance OSEP programs and provide real-world learning experiences in STEM for teachers and students.
    • OSEP is currently serving over 140 schools and approximately 370 teachers and 30,000 students in the Chicago metropolitan area.
    • OSEP has worked on 11 different faculty-awarded projects since 2008.
    • OSEP supports an average of 8 faculty proposals per year—from CAREER to large center grants. OSEP consults with faculty on broader impacts, provides pre- and post-award support including proposal writing and site visits and program implementation, and evaluates outcomes and impacts.
    • OSEP is working with 6 different industry partners in the Chicago area.
    • OSEP is a member of Hive Chicago, which is a learning network of over 35 organizations focused on education and youth development.
  • OSEP as a Platform: More than just a collection of individual programs, OSEP provides a platform that is built on staff expertise, a growing network of partnerships, and best practice models for STEM teaching and learning. This platform lowers barriers to participation and creates new opportunities for engagement and collaboration in STEM education for diverse stakeholders including schools, industry, and university. OSEP delivers more capability, more efficiently and enables greater scalability and sustainability of both new and existing STEM programs across the university.

Successes and Impacts

  • OSEP's Institute for STEM Teaching and Research (iSTAR@NU) trains over 300 teachers per year on new STEM curricula and technologies and provides opportunities for teachers to work alongside leading scientists and engineers from academia and industry and also to collaborate, plan, and share best practices in STEM education with one another.
  • OSEP is part of the iLab Network that is providing remote online labs that enable students and teachers to use real scientific instruments, rather than simulations, to carry out experiments from anywhere at any time. OSEP's remote online labs have served nearly 6,000 users worldwide.
  • OSEP partners with the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) on a nationally recognized National Science Foundation, GK-12 Program called Reach for the Stars that places STEM graduate student fellows in K-12 science classrooms for the academic year with the goal of enriching their education and strengthening their development as researchers by advancing their communication and teaching skills. The fellows work in partnership with a collaborating teacher to bring more inquiry-based teaching methods into the classroom and to further expose K-12 teachers and students to the research process. To date, Reach for the Stars has placed 24 graduate student fellows with 24 teachers and reached over 2,000 students.
  • OSEP has completed 6 faculty projects focused on K-12 STEM education that continue to reach hundreds of teachers and thousands of students. For example, see our Northwestern University Investigations in Oncofertility (NUBIO) project.
  • The FUSE program is expanding—new partners and new locations—including Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Public Library with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
  • Northwestern University has formalized its university-community relationship by providing full-time STEM Education and Partnership Coordinator, OSEP staff member Kristen Perkins, to Evanston Township High School.
  • OSEP's remote online lab program recently received the Innovations in Networking Award for Educational Applications. The award, given by the Corporation for Educational Network Initiatives in California (CENIC), highlights innovations with the potential to revolutionize instruction and research with networking.
  • OSEP also recently won the Catalyst Award for helping to strengthen ties between Northwestern University and the town of Evanston.

Elements Contributing to Success

  • Internal baseline support from Northwestern University's Vice President for Research and Dean of SESP that provides funding for administrative staff.
  • A staffing model that includes professionals with strong backgrounds in K-12 STEM education. This brings credible education expertise to broader impacts plans and implementation.
  • A growing number of completed and successful faculty projects that continue to reach hundreds of teachers and thousands of students through OSEP programs like iSTAR@NU.
  • An increasingly diverse funding base from federal, private foundation, and corporate sources. OSEP has been able to leverage federal funds to bring in private foundation and corporate grants that contribute to greater scale and sustainability of our K-12 STEM education programs.
  • OSEP develops and receives funding for its own programs that provide opportunities for faculty and graduate student engagement. This work is leveraged and helps to increase competitiveness for faculty funding.
  • K-12 outreach and community engagement are a Northwestern University priority.
  • Support and coordination with Northwestern University's Office for Research that helps to connect OSEP to faculty.
  • Support from and coordination with Northwestern University's Alumni Relations and Development Office.
  • Strategic partnerships with school, district, and state-based STEM education initiatives across Illinois.
  • Active participation in national and international networks and professional conferences such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), for example, and the recent Broader Impacts Infrastructure Summit.
  • An extensive and growing network of partner schools and teachers.
  • Active communication and updates from OSEP on STEM education news and trends and our own programming and activities.

Supplemental Materials

OSEP poster (Acrobat (PDF) 36.6MB Aug1 13)