Transforming a Land-Grant STEM Center
Over the past two years, Virginia Tech has engaged in a revisioning process to transform the long-standing VT-STEM university outreach initiative into a STEM/SEAD center that reflects the tripartite land-grant mission. Basically, we are transforming a center that was entirely devoted to outreach, to one that still addresses the outreach mission but includes advocacy and a significant emphasis on the research and evaluation related to the university's broader impacts on STEM/SEAD education. This process engaged stakeholders from the university as well as the various publics who are invested in ensuring high quality STEM education for all learners.
The process itself included a series of meetings that included our campus stakeholders and advisory board, as well as two community-wide STEM summits. The participants in this larger group included university faculty, staff, administrators, and students, our P-12 partners, the business community, and state and local government agencies. After initial meetings, a smaller planning group composed of the administrator, faculty, and key community partners met to review the feedback from the larger group of stakeholders, and begin to narrow down a very broad series of goals into ones that would meet central needs. The documents that were developed at each step were shared back with the constituents for confirmation and feedback. From these documents and feedback, we wrote a proposal to establish our new center, the Center for Research on SEAD Education (CRSE). The new center was approved through the university governance system. We are now at the stage of working with the Office for the Vice President of Research and Innovation (OVPRI) to work out the role that CRSE plays in collaboration with the OVPRI office and all of the colleges and institutes around campus. Out of these discussions we hope to a have a clear statement to share with our stakeholders.
One of the major shifts made during this transformation was the institutional relocation of VT-STEM from the Office for Outreach and International Affairs to the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. Our new home has offered us a more inclusive approach to the types of learning and opportunities found in STEM education, but with the additional enhancement of arts and design (i.e., SEAD = Science, Engineering, Arts, and Design). Given what we are learning about innovation and the needs of our youth, we need to ensure that STEM content is embedded in the types of creative thinking and problem solving found in the arts and design.
Clearly, we have a broad reach and a wide-range of stakeholders. At the foundation, we begin with the central message that the purpose of the center is to ultimately advance high quality STEM/SEAD learning for all – both in formal and informal contexts. The fact that our mission has an eye on the workforce pipeline and economic development, we open the doors to creating the types of partnerships that are sustainable and meaningful – all aligned with Virginia Tech's land-grant mission. Our message is then tailored to meet the needs of our partners through collaboration, negotiation, and the spirit of mutual benefit and respect.
Center Profile: Center for Research in SEAD Education - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University