Why does STEM matter to your organization?
As the nation’s need for scientists and engineers increases, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) encourages young Americans to look up – and down – for their future careers to meet the demands.
Earth and space sciences are strategic elements of the overall STEM community, and offer today’s students an employment opportunity of a lifetime. Students can uncover the Earth’s deepest mysteries, unlock the secrets of outer space, or set their sights on anything and everything in between. Their work could help predict severe weather episodes like earthquakes or hurricanes, protect national security, or ensure economic competitiveness through access to little-known natural resources.
What is your organization doing about it?
AGU is committed to exposing students, teachers, and life-long learners to the freshest, most accurate scientific knowledge available. We use a multi-staged approach designed to make Earth and space science fun and interesting for a variety of audiences and age ranges. We also work to provide awards, recognition, networking, and mentoring opportunities for college students and early career scientists, in addition to programming that works to strengthen the skills of instructors at all education levels. By reaching out to such a broad groups, we are helping to ensure a robust geoscience talent pool that also reflects our nation’s diverse population.
Has your organization been successful at reaching its STEM goals? (Please feel free to point to specific programs.)
An example of AGU’s innovative approach to STEM programming is our work to support two-year colleges, which play a vitally important role in the higher education system in the U.S.—including attracting a large population of students from underrepresented groups. Unfortunately, many STEM students from these institutions do not finish their degrees or succeed in transferring to and completing programs at four-year colleges. Our new effort, Unique Research Experiences for two-year College faculty And Students (URECAS), is intended to support and foster the educational careers of two-year college students, and ultimately create pathways for them to enter the workforce.
If you could have three wishes granted by the STEM genie, what would they be?
- Earth sciences would be taught in the entire K-12 curriculum. Currently, most children do not get sustained Earth science education beyond the middle school.
- K-12 teachers would have better access to professional development in the Earth and space sciences. Only 22% of high school Earth science classes are taught by teacher with degree in the field. Also, graduate students and early career scientists would have better access to opportunities for exploring teaching careers.
- Work to communicate research to general public and in the K-12 system would become a valued component of all academic institutions’ tenure track considerations.
Beyond your organization, what one thing should be done now to help solve the STEM crisis?
Facilitating STEM teacher development plays a vital role in our ability to fill and sustain the STEM pipeline in the United States. How can we get kids interested in science – and keep them interested throughout their K-12 educational experience – if we aren’t adequately preparing the educators whose job it is to inspire them? Unfortunately, that isn’t a challenge any single organization can solve. A solution of that magnitude will require a joint commitment from business, industry, academia, government and professional organizations. Only when we work in tandem will we be able to make a long-term, sustainable impact.