Initial Publication Date: October 14, 2013

Center for Excellence in STEM Education (CESAME)

The vision of CESAME is to be a state and national leader in science and mathematics education in order to improve the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) pipeline and enhance the scientific and technological literacy of our society.

College of Science and Mathematics, California Polytechnic State University
Established: 2004

Profile submitted by John Keller

Vision and Goals

GOAL 1: Improve P-12 science and mathematics teacher recruitment, education, development, and retention by instituting curricular and co-curricular programs that are directed toward: a) increasing the numbers and quality of science, engineering and mathematics majors who obtain single subject credentials in the sciences and mathematics, and b) increasing the numbers and quality of pre-service elementary school teachers who choose an emphasis in the sciences or mathematics in their undergraduate major. This goal also involves offering professional development programs for practicing P-12 science and mathematics teacher and nurturing a P-16 community of practice among science, mathematics and technology educators at Cal Poly and in San Luis Obispo County.

GOAL 2: Promote effective P-16 STEM teaching, learning, and literacy by engaging in research, development, and dissemination of effective P-16 STEM teaching methods and learning materials.

GOAL 3: Support programs that have significant impact on the numbers of students who enter STEM teaching, research, and industry careers by assisting in the development and implementation of programs that promote STEM student success and career choice, including those focused on women and minority students.

Center/Program Structure

CESAME is housed within the Cal Poly College of Science and Mathematics as a cross-campus center that works with faculty and students from all colleges within the University. The core administration of the center involves four faculty (two Co-Directors, a Director of Equity and Access in STEM, and a STAR Program Director) and three Administrative Coordinators who each support various programs associated with the Center. Depending upon the year, one Co-Director has taken on a more primary administrative role while the other has held more of an assistant role. The two faculty share 1 FTE provided by the College of Science and Mathematics annually. Remaining time is supported through either external funding or teaching load.

The center collaborates with over two dozen faculty primarily from the College of Science and Mathematics and the College of Engineering. These collaborations include close connections with faculty in the School of Education, which is also housed in the College of Science and Mathematics.

Are there advantages of being structured this way?
The Co-Director structure allows both co-directors to maintain connections to the classroom and also to support one another in running the Center.

Are there particular challenges that result from this structure?
Strong communication between the Co-Directors and Administrative Coordinators is required.

Center Funding

CESAME is supported through a) state level support provided by the Cal Poly College of Science and Mathematics, b) state funding provided by the CSU Math and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI) and Teacher Recruitment Project (TRP), c) public funding from federal and state grants, and d) private funding from foundation grants and gifts.

How has this funding structure influenced the undergraduate STEM education programming the center offers?
CESAME has focused primarily on recruitment and preparation of K-12 STEM educators and professional development for classroom teachers who serve as cooperating teachers for our teacher candidates.

What are the specific advantages of having a center funded in this way?
State level funding from the College of Science and Mathematics and CSU MSTI/TRP provide a stable, reliable source of funding to support center infrastructure. Public and private grants and gifts fund most of our direct participant support costs.

What are the challenges?
Continued grant and report writing is required to sustain the programmatic activities of the Center.

Has this funding structure has changed over time?
Not appreciably. College of Science and Math support and MSTI support have been present since the beginning of the Center. TRP support was added in 2010. Grant and gift funding has continued to grow over the Center's history.

Description of Programming

CESAME has focused its efforts on the recruitment, preparation, and retention of K-12 STEM teachers. CESAME coordinates the STEM Teacher and Researcher (STAR) Program on behalf of the CSU system. STAR provides paid summer research experiences at national laboratories (e.g., NASA, NOAA, DOE, DOD) along with professional development emphasizing the development of "teacher-researcher" identity. Additional information is available at

CESAME also provides early field experiences to undergraduates through the following programs. The Learn By Doing Lab (LBDL) brings 3,000 fourth through eighth graders to campus every year to be taught by over 120 STEM undergraduates and pre-service elementary teachers. Mentors in Out-of-School Time (MOST) provides opportunities for undergraduates to facilitate STEM learning in afterschool programs. Teaching Assistants in Math and Science (TeAMS) places pre-service teachers in local classrooms as tutors and classroom laboratory assistants. Finally, CESAME supports a Learning Assistant (LA) Program in undergraduate science studio classrooms and also supports two Noyce Phase II programs in mathematics and science.

CESAME also supports efforts to enhance the campus climate for student success in STEM. In particular, through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program, the center focuses on supporting STEM majors who have faced or currently face social, economic, and educational barriers in STEM.

Successes and Impacts

Through the STAR Program, CESAME has provided 350 summer research experiences in national labs for over 280 pre-service science and mathematic teachers. Evaluations of the STAR program demonstrate identity formation of participants as researchers and teachers and deepened understanding of science as a discipline. Participants also show growth in self-efficacy as STEM teachers and an increased commitment to science and math teaching. Research on the impact of the STAR experience on classroom practice suggests direct integration of their research experience into instruction by participants. Longitudinal work of this seven year program is currently investigating the impact of the program on teacher retention, classroom practice, and engagement in scientific and engineering practices. Through the STAR Program and other STEM teacher recruitment efforts described above, CESAME has seen the annual number of STEM credentials recommended by Cal Poly triple over the past ten years.

Evaluation and Assessment

How does your center demonstrate its value, both in terms of assessing its own programming and responding to external evaluation?
The Center completes an annual program evaluation that is submitted to the University. This comprises primarily of data metrics on programs run by the center and the number and demographics of participants served.

The Center has also been developing a database for tracking the number and types of CESAME activities that undergraduates engage in and whether these undergraduates pursue and/or complete credential programs and enter education professions.

Elements Contributing to Success

Elements that have contributed to the success of CESAME include the following: exceptional support from the Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, the Provost, and the President; a critical mass of science and mathematics education faculty housed in disciplinary departments and the School of Education within the College of Science and Mathematics; support from the CSU Chancellor's Office through the Math and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI) and Teacher Recruitment Program (TRP); strong partnerships with local school districts; and the "Learn By Doing" culture of the polytechnic campus.

Supplemental Materials

Essay: Evaluation and Assessment - John Keller, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education (CESAME), California Polytechnic State University