September closed with a gathering of Iowa’s STEM leaders who make up the STEM Council, marking the 16th meeting in five years. Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) in Ankeny provided the perfect setting.
Dr. Rob Denson, STEM Council executive committee member and DMACC President, welcomed the group of more than 60 advocates alongside Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, setting the table for the day’s ambitious agenda.
Profiling the STEM BEST® model as one of the most innovative and potent programs of the STEM Council suite, Executive Director Dr. Jeff Weld guided the group through two years of progress on naming and supporting eight leading-edge school-business consortia. 2016 brings a wonderful dilemma familiar to STEM Council members: more interest than there are resources as 14 applicants vie for six available awards. Members contributed a number of strategic solutions, including certificates of excellence or non-monetary aid for those not awarded. Since the start of STEM BEST, the eight awarded models have cost-shared more than $940,000 and are partnering with an estimated 170 local businesses and organizations.
Dr. Erin Heiden with the Center of Social and Behavioral Research (CSBR) at the University of Northern Iowa led the group on a tour of the 2015-2016 Iowa STEM Evaluation Report, making pit-stops for conversation on new measurements and improving the metrics of the report for the years to come. Dr. Jill Wittrock, assistant director for the UNI’s CSBR, unveiled a new resource for STEM happenings in Iowa called, FindSTEMIowa.org. Members were “assigned” homework of posting a resource, event or program to the site for a jump-start, and all Iowa STEM advocates are invited to do the same.
An international STEM perspective highlighted the day with Dr. Yoshisuke Kumano from Shizuoka University in Japan, who has toured the country and shared the five best practices in STEM he has witnessed so far. During lunch, Southwest Regional STEM Manager Deb Frazee profiled a national qualifying Ten80 team from Shenandoah Middle School, supported through the STEM Scale-Up Program, drawing out their story for the STEM Council on their travels to the national championship and the awards they brought home.
The afternoon was a facilitated think-tank led by Dr. Weld to gauge STEM Council members’ interests and confidence in programming, functions and overall goals. An agreeable amount showed interest in strengthening the focus on underrepresented groups, communications towards the STEM Council members and uniting key stakeholders behind the STEM movement. Overall, the majority of the group was very satisfied with the progress the STEM Council has made so far.
For more information on the STEM Council or to see meeting archives, please visit www.IowaSTEM.gov/Council.