Department STEMs from education

By Rachel Aretakis

The UK Board of Trustees approved a new department in the College of Education that specifically focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) was approved on Feb. 22 and will be put into effect July 1.

“We will have more of a STEM Education focus, since we will no longer be in a department that has other areas,” Jennifer Wilhelm, chair designate and PIMSER Outreach professor, said. “We’re going to be focusing on educating and creating more highly qualified science and mathematics teachers.”

This department will enhance and expand the STEM Education efforts at UK, she said.

Margaret Schroeder, an assistant professor in the STEM Education department, said that the conversation about creating this department began a few years ago.

“Dean (Mary John) O’Hair pretty much took that initiative we had started and helped push it forward for us,” she said.

Schroeder said now the College can focus on more STEM Education initiatives, especially within teacher certification.

“We have some great ideas and great programs, but they often got lost because there are so many programs in the Department of Curriculum Instruction,” Schroeder said. “The new department will be able to focus on what we want to do in teacher instruction.”

The department is also creating new programs specific to STEM Education for students. One of the first actions of the department is to create an undergraduate program called STEM PLUS, which stands for Producing Leaders for Rural/Urban Schools, Wilhelm said.

STEM PLUS will allow undergraduate students to obtain a teaching certification in the STEM areas without a master’s degree.

Currently, there is not an undergraduate program that provides teacher certification in the mathematics, science or computer sciences areas, Schroeder said.

This program will include a lot of field-based coursework and experiences, she said.

Schroeder said she wants the department to reach more undergraduate and graduate students, as well as become more involved in the community and bring the community into the department.

“I hope that we can bring more STEM initiatives to the forefront and continue to do the great things that we’re doing,” Schroeder said.