Initial Publication Date: September 5, 2013

Center for STEM Research, Education, and Outreach

The STEM Center at SIUE is dedicated to building a community of researchers and educators who together innovate ways to engage students and the public in STEM.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Established: 2010


Profile submitted by Sharon Locke

Vision and Goals

The Center for STEM Research, Education, and Outreach is a university-wide initiative to develop, strengthen, and promote STEM research, education, and outreach at SIUE and in the region. It is a collaborative enterprise among several SIUE academic units (the College of Arts and Sciences, the Schools of Education and Engineering, and the allied health sciences), other regional higher education organizations, local community colleges, school districts, regional offices of education, government agencies, business, and the community at large. The Center provides expertise in STEM education program design and implementation, research, and evaluation.
Specific goals include the following:

  1. Build and support interdisciplinary teams of SIUE faculty to conduct STEM education projects and seek and secure external and internal funding.
  2. Provide access to equipment, facilities, and expertise for STEM education research to SIUE faculty and students and the broader community.
  3. Facilitate and promote innovations in SIUE undergraduate and graduate STEM teaching.
  4. Enhance teaching and learning of STEM for pre-service and in-service teachers.
  5. Develop, enhance, coordinate, and promote new and existing STEM-related outreach in the southern Illinois region to enhance STEM literacy.
  6. Develop and maintain a comprehensive STEM resource and equipment center for in-service and pre-service teachers, SIUE faculty, and other local stakeholders.

Center/Program Structure

The SIUE STEM Center is an independent research center within the Graduate School at SIUE. There are 9 FTE working at the Center. This includes full time staff (director, business manager, outreach coordinator, and resource center coordinator), one research faculty, one post doctoral fellow, research support staff (programmer and evaluation/curriculum designer), a part-time visiting professor, and undergraduate and graduate student workers. We intermittently bring on internal faculty fellows to work on exploratory or externally funded research projects. The director and business manager are state funded positions. All other work is supported by grant funds and other external funding sources. Both internal and external collaborations are expected.

Description of Programming

The SIUE STEM Center provides STEM education and programs to audiences at multiple educational levels, K through general public. Some of our current initiatives include the following:

  1. Faculty Fellows: In 2015 two faculty fellows are collaborating with STEM Center staff on 1) the introduction of course-based research experiences into SIUE undergraduate biology courses and 2) infusing cybersecurity throughout the SIUE computer science curriculum.
  2. Informal STEM teaching experiences for undergraduate students, including STEM and education majors. Approximately 250 SIUE undergraduate students participate annually in the center's outreach programs for service learning credit.
  3. STEM Resource Center: A lending library of equipment, materials, and curricula for educators. In 2014 the library served over 30,000 learners, including several thousand undergraduate students.
  4. NSF Noyce Internships: The STEM Center leads a summer internship program for freshmen and sophomores at SIUE and local community college students who are majoring in STEM.
  5. Digital East St. Louis: This NSF-funded project is a research study that bridges STEM and humanities to advance understanding of engagement of urban minority youth in computing careers.
  6. K-12 teacher professional development: Current programs focus on teaching using scientific inquiry and addressing the Next Generation Science Standards.
  7. Teen Science Cafés: The SIUE STEM Center is part of an NSF-funded national network of teen science cafés. Cafés are offered once per month at three sites (hosted by our external partners—Saint Louis Science Center and Academy of Science St. Louis) in the St. Louis metro region, averaging 40-50 participants per café.
  8. Citizen Science: Cosmoquest is a web-based astronomy citizen science project reaching tens of thousands of people annually.

Successes and Impacts

The STEM Center partners extensively with faculty members on grant proposals, both as the unit conducting educational research for STEM undergraduate education projects and as the leader of broader impacts components of NSF projects. We have submitted collaborative proposals with 20 different units on campus, successfully fulfilling our goal to build and support interdisciplinary teams of SIUE faculty to innovate in STEM education. Our partnerships have included several creative approaches to STEM education, ranging from a project to improve engineering communications skills of undergraduates to a partnership with the English and History departments on STEM workforce development. We also have a sustained partnership with the East St. Louis community to improve access to STEM education in this distressed, high poverty urban area.

Representative project: In a partnership with the School of Education and The Boeing Company, the STEM Center designed and implemented the Teachers N' Training program, an intensive STEM teaching experience for future elementary teachers. The program places teacher candidates in the STEM Center's summer science institute for students in grades 2-8 and guides them in the development and implementation of inquiry-based STEM lessons in an informal setting. A series of pre and post surveys including the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument--Preservice (STEBI-B) and a modified Views of Nature of Science (VNOS), participant interviews, and lesson artifacts were used to investigate program impact on teacher candidates' confidence, teaching self-efficacy, and knowledge of inquiry. After completing the program, participants scored significantly higher on the STEBI-B; and analysis of open-ended responses to VNOS questions and interview questions indicated an improvement in knowledge and confidence related to inquiry based STEM teaching. This program is representative of a successful partnership of a university-based STEM center with internal and external collaborators on a project closely aligned with the university's mission.

Elements Contributing to Success

As a university-wide research center we are well positioned to collaborate with faculty, staff, and students in any of the STEM-related colleges and schools (College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education, School of Engineering, School of Pharmacy, School of Dental Medicine, School of Nursing). At approximately 14,000 students, the institution is small enough that faculty networks are strong and relationships can be developed across units, opening up many possibilities for internal collaborations on grant-funded projects. In addition, we are located in the St. Louis metro region, which is home to many excellent STEM organizations across the non-profit, government, and private sectors. The STEM Center in its current form has existed for three years (prior to 2010 an Office of Science and Mathematics Education was housed within the College of Arts and Sciences). During the past three years the STEM Center has enjoyed substantial growth enabled by outstanding administrative support from the Dean of the Graduate School/Associate Provost for Research (who is the immediate supervisor of the STEM Center director), as well as the Provost and the Chancellor.