Today we’re talking to Dr. Gay Stewart of West Virginia University where she is the founding director of the WVU Center for Excellence in STEM Education (CE-STEM). Dr. Stewart is also a professor of STEM education and physics. Since having her first child she has wanted to help make the world a better place and realized that opening the doors to STEM education was a way to do just that.
Welcome Dr. Stewart! Please tell us about the WVU Center for Excellence in STEM Education and the work that it’s doing.
Improving STEM education for the university and the state is one of WVU’s five Mountains of Excellence. With faculty working together from across the university in this trans-disciplinary research effort, WVU CE-STEM aspires to make WVU a national model of high quality STEM education, encouraging more students to study, and retaining more students in STEM courses, that will open doors to successful STEM careers. WVU is dedicated to its land-grant mission, and we want to work with our colleagues in the governor’s office and the state Department of Education to make sure all West Virginia children have access to the economic future that a solid STEM education provides!
What is the biggest accomplishment of the WVU Center for Excellence in STEM Education so far?
We serve as the home for our campus’ UTeach replication program, WVUteach, and have joined as a partner in 100Kin10, looking to more than double the number of highly qualified mathematics and science teachers we produce, and to support them in their early careers so they stay in the classroom.
What is UTeach?
UTeach began at the University of Texas Austin in 1997. It is a university-based, secondary STEM teacher preparation program designed specifically for undergraduate STEM majors; this creates a unique collaboration between the colleges of science, education, and liberal arts at a university. UTeach combines extensive, individualized coaching with intensive field-based teaching opportunities and relevant content. Students in the program earn degrees in their content areas (e.g., mathematics, biology, chemistry) along with a teaching certification; this offers students ‘one degree, two career options’ with no additional time or cost. WVUteach is in the most recent cohort, cohort 6, which started in 2015. We currently have 84 students participating in the program with high retention rates and are looking forward to growing the program over the coming semesters.
What does it mean to be a member of STEMx?
STEMx gives us the access to experts who are doing this work well. We are all at different stages in the process and there is a rich variety of programs and tools to drive improvement in STEM education. We all care passionately about this work, and members of the network are willing to provide significant support to those who share these goals. It is amazing!
What do you think other STEMx states could learn from your work so far in West Virginia?
West Virginia knows that workers in STEM occupations drive our state’s innovation and economic competitiveness. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin commissioned the West Virginia Council on STEM report in 2014. West Virginia is expected to add 25,000 STEM jobs by 2018 and STEM is the fastest growing job sector in number and income. We realize that public and private organizations, foundations, and post-secondary institutions all are needed with strong business partnerships to drive STEM success in our state. WVUCE-STEM has faculty with significant expertise to help support this effort. I think the states making progress are the states that recognize the need for these sorts of partnerships, where everyone works together to do what is best for the students. We hope to be a shining example one day, right now, we are really looking forward to sharing in the expertise STEMx represents.