April 13, 2016
The University’s STEM Initiative seeks to promote scientific discovery and technological innovation through greater collaboration between math, natural sciences, and engineering. In recent months, and with the assistance of Anderson-Brule Architects (ABA), the STEM community has been actively engaged in a process to validate planning efforts.
In the fall quarter, faculty in all STEM departments met with ABA and discussed the opportunities and challenges that need to be addressed. The deans hosted two town halls to discuss ABA’s findings and to share a set of foundational statements, developed by the STEM Executive Committee, which helped clarify some of the questions that had been raised in the fall.
ABA then led a full-day retreat on March 5 and a follow-up workshop on March 28. Faculty, staff, and administrators worked together to refine the STEM vision and began developing the foundations for an educational master plan for STEM. Convergence between math, natural sciences, and engineering—in both teaching and research—a concept advanced by the 2014-15 STEM Steering Committee continues to be a promising dimension of the STEM vision.
To promote greater convergence, I have established a STEM Convergence Grant Program, supported by an anonymous gift to fund collaborative projects in teaching and research. Teams must include at least one faculty member from the STEM departments in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and are eligible for grants of up to $15,000. The first round of funding is underway with six teams receiving planning grants to develop full proposals. A second round of funding will be available later this quarter. All funds will be available starting this summer.
The STEM Working Committee (SWC) has been working diligently to build community by facilitating networking across the two academic units. These efforts are helping to establish a strong foundation for the STEM Initiative. Additionally, the committee organized a three-part discussion series about persistence and diversity in STEM fields; a panel about Silicon Valley perspectives on the future state of STEM at SCU; and roundtable discussions about commonalities across introductory courses in STEM. I am grateful to the SWC for its efforts and thoughtful contributions to the broader STEM dialogues.
This spring, the SWC will continue to facilitate connections between STEM faculty in the College of Arts Sciences and the School of Engineering. They will also formulate a set of recommendations for promoting persistence and diversity in STEM. Concurrently, ABA will evaluate the space program for the facility, drawing upon the vision and educational master plan. And later this year, the process for selecting an architect will begin in earnest.
Throughout our conversations over the last two quarters, we have reflected on the existing leadership structure for the whole STEM Initiative. In the next few weeks, I will work with Godfrey Mungal and Debbie Tahmassebi to reorganize committees to maximize communication and effectiveness. The project is a major undertaking and I welcome any suggestions about how to be more inclusive in the conversations about STEM.