The Hawaii STEM Network for Innovation

John Rand, University of Hawaii Office of STEM Education

Hawaii's economic challenge is the continued dependence on tourism and government spending. Tourism alone generates an estimated 20% of all economic activity in Hawaii. As a result, Hawaii's economy is susceptible to greater economic shock from national and global economic downturns.

To aid in economic diversification, the University of Hawaii has developed the Hawaii Innovation Initiative. Working in partnership with the private sector and government the Hawaii Innovation Initiative is designed to serve as the focal point for building a thriving innovation, research, education and training enterprise in Hawai'i. The STEM Center of Excellence will play a critical role in the development of the timely education and training aspects of the Hawaii Innovation Initiative.

Partnerships are key to the success of the STEM Center of Excellence in creating a strategy to blend education, research and workforce development into a community of practice – a STEM Network. This network will develop broader impact templates that will be inserted in STEM research proposal submitted by the University of Hawaii in response to solicitations from agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes for Health, Office of Naval Research, and the National Security Agency. The templates will strengthen the competitiveness of STEM proposals by aligning UH research with Hawaii's corresponding STEM industry sector and academic pathway. This will (a) engage UH Researchers directly with K-12 projects and 2-yr college educational opportunities and (b) enhance Hawaii's knowledge base and engagement between UH researchers and business and industry professionals increasing the opportunity for commercialization of research activities that drive the innovation economy through the Hawaii Innovation Initiative.

An essential part of this network strategy relies on a well-trained STEM workforce in Hawai'i. The University of Hawai'i OSE has embarked on an ambitious journey to design, develop, introduce and navigate comprehensive, articulated and purposeful academic pathways to promote STEM students' success in Hawai'i. The STEM pathways will incorporate specifically designed student learning outcomes at all critical junctures of the students' progress. The pathways are designed for stop-out/move-in, so that students facing external, unanticipated challenges can leave the program with an academic credential—and an established set of skills attractive to industry—and rejoining the path later, once they're ready. In the early part of the journey, students can easily cross from one pathway to another to find the optimal fit. However, as students matures academically, the pathway narrows to an endpoint in the workforce or in graduate education leading to employment.

The 4 Pathways will be aligned with the UH ASNS Degree program that has four area Concentrations:

  1. Biological Science (BS)
  2. Engineering (ENG)
  3. Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
  4. Physical Science (PS)
These Concentrations provide students with a clear academic goal as they proceed through a pathway to their intended Baccalaureate STEM major.

These pathways are more than a recommended progression of required and elective coursework and academic curriculum. The pathway employ selected best practices in education aimed at critical junctures in the pathway; namely, at the transition from high school to college and the transfer from 2-year colleges to 4-year colleges. These critical junctures are point along the path where students can stop-out/move-in along the path.

The performance of the STEM Center of Excellence will be tracked and measured through the Hawaii P-20 Initiative and the Institutional Research and Analysis Office. This will be accomplished by enhancing student data tracking capabilities in the State of Hawaii, longitudinal education to workforce data system and the addition of data visualization and reporting dashboards. The enhanced visualization capabilities will improve reporting on Hawaii's STEM student recruitment, retention, persistence, graduates, and STEM Center activity participants within the prioritized STEM industry sectors. This new information is vital in growing Hawaii's STEM industries as it isolates the impact of emigration of Hawaii STEM graduates (brain drain) that will be identified through the participation in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) study of Hawaii Resident Migration Patterns.


Center Profile: University of Hawaii Office of STEM Education