Initial Publication Date: May 15, 2018

University of Utah's Center for Science & Mathematics Education - Strategies for Communicating Our Mission

Emily Gaines, University of Utah Center for Science & Mathematics Education


We empower students from all backgrounds to succeed in math and science by:
1) enhancing the quality and equity of K-12 math and science instruction in Utah;
2) increasing access to high-quality math and science K-12 experiences at the University of Utah;
3) promoting the academic success and career readiness of undergraduate students in math and science at the University of Utah.


-K-12 stakeholders: students/families, K12 teachers/specialists, K12 administrators, Utah State Board of Education;
-Higher education stakeholders: undergraduate students/families, math/science faculty/instructors, education faculty/instructors, university administrators, stakeholders/partners at other institutions of higher education;
-Other: donors, general public


-Faculty members in associated colleges (College of Science, College of Education) understand how CSME's mission is of value to their departments and/or their individual work
-Target audiences for programming (K12 teachers, undergraduates, faculty, etc.) are motivated to engage with our programs and/or pursue similar activities within their own institutions/departments, etc.
-Students, faculty, administrators, and other stakeholders understand how the CSME is working to address issues of equity and inclusion
-Other campus and community entities which share missions similar to ours are aware of our Center's work, leading to possible partnerships
-Central administration at the University understands importance/impacts of our work and continues to financially support the Center
-Donors and the general public understand that their financial contributions/tax dollars are being applied to important work


We either directly or indirectly reference our mission within all of our major communication activities:

-The primary source of information about our Center is our website ( The website is currently being restructured, so that our work is presented within the framework of our mission statement. This type of framing is also present in our general brochure, which is given to the public, donors, etc.
-Messages about our mission are conveyed via email newsletters, which are sent ~6 times/yr to summarize recent activities (and sent more frequently to advertise events). We maintain several different email groups, so that we can target our emails effectively, and recipients can opt-in/out.
-An internal annual report is generated for university administrators; outcomes are summarized by mission area.
-On a limited basis, we use social media to raise awareness of our activities and related issues. We also collaborate with the University's central communications department for media coverage of our work.
-When recruiting for participation in specific programs and/or events, we typically produce recruitment materials both in print and online. These materials always provide some information about the CSME and link back to the webpage.

We have a central staff person with dedicated time (~0.2 FTE) for communication activities; this helps to maintain consistency of messaging. While this staff member oversees our overall communication approaches, individual program managers have the flexibility to engage with their stakeholders as they see fit. This means that program managers can adjust the content/approach of their webpages, emails, print materials, etc., as appropriate for their program's audience/stakeholders.

When working with different audiences, we often emphasize the most relevant aspects of our mission for that particular group (for instance, emphasizing the K-12 components to K-12 stakeholders).


-Our mission has shifted over time and will continue to evolve with each change in leadership. When stakeholders form initial impressions about our mission, it can be difficult to shift their understanding down the road when the mission changes.
-Historically, CSME has been known for its programs, rather than for its role in motivating institutional change. It is challenging to move stakeholders past the idea of CSME being strictly a program-running center.
-Our Center addresses science/math education at multiple points along the STEM pipeline. It is challenging to help our stakeholders - who often have a relatively narrow focus - see the bigger picture of our work.
-Despite efforts to tailor our message appropriately to different audiences, it is still a challenge to strike the right tone. For instance, the terms academics use to describe our work don't always resonate with the general public.
-We have found discussions around equity and inclusion, an increasing focus of the CSME, to be difficult. These difficulties occur both when working with colleagues in the College of Science and in the social and behavioral sciences and education.