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Illinois launches I-STEM Initiative

11/10/2008
NOTE: Updated 1/27/09 and 2/5/10

Phil Ciciora, News Editor
217-333-2177;pciciora@illinois.edu
  
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The launch of Sputnik in 1957 served as a wake-up call for Eisenhower-era America to train more scientists and engineers. Officials at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hope their new I-STEM Initiative has the same effect.

Lizanne DeStefano
Click photo to enlarge
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Lizanne DeStefano, Fox Family Professor, is the director of the Illinois STEM Initiative, which seeks to increase the number and quality of science, technology, engineering and math teachers who graduate from the Urbana campus, along with improving student recruitment and retention rates in science and technology-affiliated programs.

Beginning today (Nov. 10), the I-STEM Education Initiative (I-STEM) seeks to increase the number and quality of science, technology, engineering and math teachers who graduate from the Urbana campus, along with improving student recruitment and retention rates in science and technology-affiliated programs, especially for women and minorities.

Science, technology, engineering and math – the four subjects that make up the “STEM” acronym – are the four areas of education the state of Illinois and the country must dramatically improve in if the United States is to stay competitive in an increasingly technology-focused global marketplace, according to Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus

"At no time in history has it been more important for a society to have a shared and common knowledge in math, science and technology,” Herman said. “In our technology-rich world, with global competition, core skills in these areas are the price of admission to full participation in nearly every phase of life. I can think of no other institution better prepared to lead the way in redefining how we transform the teaching, learning and practice of science and math than the University of Illinois."

Scientific innovation has produced nearly half of all U.S. economic growth in the last 50 years. Over the next five years, 1.25 million new jobs in science and engineering will be created, and in the next decade, 17 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations will be in health care and technology-related fields.

To satisfy demand for those occupations, U.S. schools will need nearly a quarter of a million new science and math teachers for middle and high schools by 2010.

They’ll have their work cut out for them. According to the “Nation’s Report Card,” a report published by the National Center for Education Statistics, fewer than one-third of the 8th-grade students performed at or above a level deemed “proficient” in mathematics.

“We hope to bring to bear the strength of STEM disciplines and teaching and learning sciences on the Illinois campus to dramatically improve the quality of STEM education pre-K through 20, and to increase the number and diversity of students interested in STEM teaching and other careers,” said Lizanne DeStefano, Fox Family Professor and director of I-STEM.

The College of Education will partner with the colleges of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; Applied Health Sciences; Engineering; Liberal Arts and Sciences; Veterinary Medicine; and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois to increase the number and quality of STEM teachers who graduate from Illinois, provide high-quality professional development for new and experienced STEM teachers, improve access and retention in undergraduate STEM programs, especially for underrepresented groups, and to nurture and promote meaningful and productive connections among academic disciplines, according to DeStefano.

Editor’s note: To contact Lizanne DeStefano, call 217-333-8520; email destefan@illinois.edu