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New Institute to Focus on STEM Teaching Practices

By: Kathleen Tuck   Published 3:00 pm / August 14, 2014

STEM Exploration DayFuture innovations and technologies that will benefit society depend on the success of today’s educators and their ability to encourage young people to pursue careers in science.

Boise State University has invested heavily in programs that address the need for quality science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates, and in increasing the number of women and minorities in science fields. A newly formed Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives will build on the success of these programs and serve as a central coordinating and support structure for activities having to do with STEM education.

The university trustees on the Idaho State Board of Education approved formation of the new institute on Aug. 14.

STEMExplorationGirls620x320“Quality STEM research and education programs are key to providing access and opportunity for students of all backgrounds, while addressing the demand for STEM professionals in our state and nation,” said Boise State University Provost Martin Schimpf. “With the evolution of our STEM Station into the Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives, Boise State will continue to build on recent successes in transforming pedagogy and increasing participation of under-represented groups in the STEM disciplines.”

Boise State’s STEM Station, started in 2010 with support from the National Science Foundation, serves to catalyze collaboration among numerous STEM initiatives that focus on student success and quality teaching. Additionally Boise State has established itself as a leader in K-20 STEM education, with more than 25 STEM initiatives in the past decade that have attracted more than $12 million in external funding. From 2008-2013, Boise State achieved a 69 percent increase in STEM degrees granted.

Examples of successful STEM programs include the federal Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, which has significantly increased participation of students underrepresented in STEM fields; four national NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) sites that bring students from all over the United States and other countries to do research at Boise State; and the creation of IDoTeach, an innovative secondary mathematics and science teacher preparation program that replicates the highly effective University of Texas UTeach program.

The Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives will build on this foundation by establishing further connections with other educational institutions and corporate and community partners. The goals of the institute are to increase the quality, quantity and diversity of students graduating in STEM fields; actively contribute to the knowledge base of STEM education theories, practices and impacts; and collaborate with industry partners for economic development.

Donna LlewellynDonna Llewellyn will serve as executive director of the Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives beginning in January 2015. Llewellyn currently is associate vice provost for Learning Excellence and director of the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning at Georgia Institute of Technology. She holds a master’s degree from Stanford University and a doctorate from Cornell University, both in operations research. She also studied in Bonn, Germany, with a National Science Foundation Mathematical Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship. Llewellyn’s current interests center around education issues in general, and on increasing the participation of women and other under-represented minorities in engineering and science in particular.

“This institute illustrates the value and priority that Boise State University is placing on increasing access to STEM education and career paths for all members of the community,” she said. “I am thrilled about the opportunity to build on the STEM Station’s firm foundation and to help create a dynamic Institute.”