MVP for Iowa STEM: Gary Scholten and The Principal Financial Group

Gary Scholten, a founding member of the STEM Council, provides opening remarks at December’s Executive Committee meeting, voicing his passion for the STEM Council and its contributions to Iowa.

The Principal, an international financial services company headquartered in Des Moines, represents “the principle” idea of what it means for a business to demonstrate its passion and vested interest in Iowa STEM, especially with The Principal’s support in providing one of the company’s top leaders, Gary Scholten, executive vice president and chief information officer, to serve on the STEM Council.

Scholten began as an original Governor’s appointee to the STEM Council in 2011 who transitioned onto the Executive Committee in 2013. Since then, he has served on various working groups, including one that developed the STEM Council Seal of Approval and another one focused on how the STEM Council could bridge education and workforce through public-private partnerships.

Above and beyond Scholten’s business insights on the “T” in STEM are The Principal’s contributions to several STEM Council-led programs and events every year. The company has hosted and cost-shared Teacher Externs since 2010 through the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships program. Additionally, The Principal has sponsored the Iowa STEM Summit and has made significant, unrestricted contributions, including a $75,000 gift in 2015, a portion of which will support “Code Iowa” and the upcoming Code Studio workshops happening next month to train teachers who led their students in the “Hour of Code” in December.

Scholten says the partnership between The Principal and the STEM Council has benefited both groups. Yet, the ultimate benefit, he says, is watching Iowa’s students become more informed and inspired for their futures.

“It’s important for our young people to be aware of the great opportunities in STEM and educated in a way that they can then grab those jobs. Even for those who choose not to go into a STEM career, they’re going to need basic knowledge of mathematics and how to leverage technology or they will not be able to do the jobs of the future,” he said. “From when [the STEM Council] started, it was a blank sheet of paper. We were getting advice from other states about what we could do. Fast forward a little bit, and now, it’s very successful. We have people from other states coming in to inquire about it or how we’re doing it. For me personally, that’s really gratifying.”

We tip our hats to Gary Scholten as this month’s MVP for Iowa STEM and thank each of the other 46 members of the STEM Council for their continued support of what lies ahead in 2016 for STEM in Iowa. For more information about the STEM Council, please visit www.IowaSTEM.gov/Council.