Story by Austin Harvill
The Colorado State University science, technology, engineering and mathematics community has a new champion in Laura Sample McMeeking, who became director of the CSU STEM Center on July 1.
The STEM Center, based in the Office of the Provost, was formed in 2011 to facilitate collaboration and coordination among CSU’s science, engineering and mathematics departments, and its teacher preparation and development programs. To do so, the STEM Center supports and collaborates with faculty, staff and students who focus on STEM research and education and serves as an organizing point for large-scale projects on campus.
Succeeding two separate long-term interim directors, Sample McMeeking plans to expand the center’s abilities to collaborate, educate and advocate with the different STEM colleges and offices across campus.
“I’ve been with the center for eight years, starting as a research associate who focused on program evaluations,” Sample McMeeking said. “I’m excited to capitalize on the potential we have here in terms of opportunity and capability.”
First and foremost, Sample McMeeking is ecstatic about the position.
“The road that got me here was very strange from an academic perspective,” she said with a smile. “I followed my passions instead of any traditional path, and I think the breadth of experience in different fields really primed me to be the conduit for the STEM fields.”
Of those passions, her desire to see a diverse population of STEM experts and a more engaged and scientifically aware population top the list.
“I believe strongly in diversity, equity and inclusion in the STEM fields,” Sample McMeeking said. “I don’t necessarily want to see that exclusively in academia or the workforce, but also in a broad sense. The everyday citizen isn’t always exposed to the STEM world, and I think if they were, we’d see some amazing things.”
Her nearly decade-long experience with the center wasn’t just about dreams or ambitions, however. Through the years, Sample McMeeking helped the center become a reliable source of reputable evaluation tools. She hopes to quickly expand those services in terms of accessibility and ease of use.
“I don’t think our partners should need a degree in research methods or evaluation to take advantage of what that field offers,” Sample McMeeking explained. “With my background in evaluation research, one of my largest short-term goals is the improvement of those services so my colleagues can get to the meat of their work and understand better how to improve and expand the work they do.”
‘Hub of information’
Improving access to the center’s strengths is the first on a long list of changes the new director has in mind.
“I want to stress that, in the short term, the center isn’t going to be an entity that produces content,” Sample McMeeking said. “Rather, I envision the center as a hub of information from and for our colleagues and other partners.”
She added that the center will host vital information and contacts in CSU’s STEM community. The center will be a one-stop shop for all things STEM-related. Any content produced would be on behalf of partners or to advocate for the needs of the STEM community.
“We have a lot of experts in the different STEM fields; we want to show that to everyone else and link together those experts,” Sample McMeeking said. “I truly envision the center as a place of collaboration and connection.”
At the end of the day, however, Sample McMeeking believes her vision alone is only a part of the larger picture.
“As the director, I have a lot of plans for advancing the STEM community,” she said. “I’m excited to continue my work in the academic community, and I’d much rather change my plans together with my colleagues’ inputs instead of going at these ambitious goals alone.”
Sample McMeeking earned her bachelor’s degree in meteorology from Texas A&M University in 2003, her master’s degree in atmospheric science from CSU in 2005, and her Ph.D. in education and human resource studies from CSU in 2009.
For more information on the STEM Center, contact Sample McMeeking at email@example.com.