Colorado State University’s large and thriving STEM education and engagement community offers numerous programs, initiatives, and events offered both on- and off-campus throughout the year. This community has become so vast that it can be difficult for these education and engagement practitioners to find one another.
“I am familiar with some of the other people who do STEM education, engagement, and outreach at CSU, but definitely not all, or even most, of them. I would really like to know what other STEM educators at CSU are doing, and be able to communicate and collaborate with them more,” said Maia Holmes, director of the Bug Zoo, an engagement program within the Department of Agricultural Biology that educates people about arthropods using live specimens. The Bug Zoo brings live specimens to schools and community events, and the facilities are open for public tours.
The STEM Center was created to connect and support CSU’s STEM engagement programs and education research across the university and in the community.
“Connecting this community is essential to the continuation of successful programs because it allows people to share resources, best practices, and content expertise,” said Laura Sample McMeeking, Ph.D., director of the STEM Center. “We get questions all the time about who on campus is doing a certain type of education or engagement work, and we’ve been coordinating those connections ourselves, but we want these connections to be readily accessible to everyone on campus.”
To help facilitate organic connections between education and engagement practitioners, the STEM Center developed an online STEM Community Directory.
Connecting the community
The STEM Community Directory features short biographies of community members, the target population(s) they work with, subject area expertise, and ways in which they are open to collaborate; users can email other community members directly from the directory. Visitors can filter members based on their target populations, subject area, and collaboration interests.
Many engagement and education practitioners don’t have a website to describe their work or advertise their programs. By hosting the STEM Community Directory on its website and allowing members to control the content on their profile page, the STEM Center provides practitioners with an online presence. Community members are also able to submit STEM Engagement and Education Events to the STEM Center website, which is connected to their Community Directory profile, to bring further awareness to their activities.
Maia Holmes joined the STEM Community Directory to give the Bug Zoo more exposure to wider audiences and to collaborate with other programs. “I am also hoping this leads to more grant collaborations to help provide financial support to the Bug Zoo,” she said.
Hortensia Soto, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Mathematics, joined the STEM Community Directory to connect to like-minded people who are not only interested in STEM content, “but whose greater interest is better serving our students and the wider community. I want to connect with folks who want to use STEM as a vehicle to build relationships with people whom we serve.”
Soto’s focus is in mathematics education, including assessment, mathematical preparation of elementary teachers, outreach to high school girls, and the teaching and learning of undergraduate mathematics. Much of her current work adopts an embodied cognition lens where she integrates physical movement as a way to learn mathematics. She is part of the Embodied Mathematics Imagination and Cognition group hosting an NSF-funded workshop at CSU this fall.
The STEM Community Directory adds to the portfolio of services and resources offered by the STEM Center, which include program evaluations, consultations and collaborations on grant proposals, funding opportunities, and an outreach classroom for use by engagement and education practitioners.
Who can join the STEM Community Directory?
The STEM Center is urging anyone affiliated with Colorado State University to join, regardless of discipline, employment category (faculty, staff, graduate student, post-doc etc.), or the type of education/engagement (formal research, informal/formal engagement).
“Even if your area doesn’t fall in the traditional definition of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, we still invite you to join,” Director Sample McMeeking said. “STEM doesn’t exist in a vacuum. To truly engage all people, the definition of STEM needs broadening and what better way than to collaborate across all disciplines and subject areas.”
To join, create an account on the STEM Center website.