Colorado State University Creates STEM Center to Increase Statewide Science Outreach, Preparation of K-12 Teachers

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Colorado State University educates more state residents in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines – known as STEM education – than any other campus in Colorado.

To fulfill its land-grant mission of sharing that expertise, the university has created a new center. The CSU STEM Center works to transform STEM activities on campus, contribute to the development of Colorado’s workforce and engage K-12 students and teachers in everything from science field trips to research and professional development.

The center serves as a central point of contact for integrating and coordinating CSU’s STEM activities across campus as well as creating partnerships with business and industry, government agencies, informal education entities and workforce centers. In addition, it also will promote economic development and collaboration to enhance learning and understanding of career pathways for K-16 education.

CSU STEM will work closely with the current outreach programs including Little Shop of Physics, Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network or CoCoRaHS, Summer Engineering Camps, College of Natural Science Education & Outreach Center, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory’s outreach program and Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes. The center also will help create new programs that support the university’s STEM teaching and learning missions.

“We have incredible talents in STEM research and education across campus,” said Jan Nerger, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “The center will be a resource of scholarship and information to serve our existing programs, help encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and bring science education to the forefront. Colorado State is doing its part to attract, educate and retain a national STEM workforce that will be prepared for the challenges of the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.”

Tom Siller, associate dean for academic and student affairs in the College of Engineering, serves as director of the CSU Stem Center. All eight colleges are likely to be involved, but six are at the center’s core: the College of Agricultural Sciences, College of Applied Human Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Natural Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the Warner College of Natural Resources.

“This new center will ensure that education is responsive to the rapidly changing demands of society – that we are training teachers in the latest techniques as well as evaluating best practices to promote student learning,” said Nancy Hartley, former dean of the College of Applied Human Sciences who, with Nerger, has been heavily involved in planning the STEM center.

Goals of the center are to:

• Coordinate outreach projects with STEM Extension and serve as a liaison/point of entry for any questions concerning STEM initiatives as well as an information resource for businesses, policy makers and local constituents.
• Encourage innovation in STEM education across disciplinary boundaries through engagement of students, faculty and staff from multiple STEM departments in research experiences related to STEM learning and teaching.
• Leverage CSU’s role as a leader in statewide initiatives and STEM-focused efforts by serving as a vital resource for systemic change in STEM education statewide.
• Conduct STEM education research and provide program evaluation services for other projects on and off campus.

In addition to teacher preparation, professional development, research on best practice and policy development, the new center will help the university create more hands-on programs similar to those mentioned earlier.

“CSU is already well positioned to transform more cutting-edge research into programs that inform general audiences as well as educate students,” Siller said. “Through such programs as Little Shop of Physics and CSU Extension, we are already reaching many people across the state, but there’s always room for improvement.”

Siller has been actively involved with curricular reform issues in the college and the university as well as the design of the engineering residence hall in the new Academic Village. In an effort to improve the nation’s technological literacy and its global competitiveness, he collaborated with the School of Education to create a new Engineering Education degree, which trains engineers to be junior high and high school engineering and technology teachers.

Siller spent the spring 2008 semester at the University of Oregon as part of a prestigious American Council on Education Fellows Program that helps prepare senior leadership in the nation’s colleges and universities.

For more information about CSU STEM, go to