April 28, 2016

By Dr. Ginny Botts, UCF Hemsley Coordinator, Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities

In April 2013, President Obama sounded the alarm on STEM education.  The President has urged the national to “create an all-hands-on-deck approach” when it comes to the fields of science, technology, and math.  Nationally, he has created the Education to Innovate Initiative, which partners the federal government, non-profits, industry, and foundations to help better prepare students for the demands in the STEM fields.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only half of students who intended to major in a STEM field actually receive a STEM degree.  Of the students who intend to major in STEM but did not finish, half switch to a non-STEM major and the other half leave the university altogether.

Students are not opting out of STEM due to a lack of ability, but rather due to reasons such as the disconnect of courses to real world problems, lack of research opportunities, and the culture within the academic departments.  The Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities has heeded the call of both President Obama and Florida state leaders to work to improve the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of our STEM students.  In the same spirit of the Education to Innovate Initiative, the Florida Consortium partners the efforts of our three institutions (Florida International, Central Florida, and South Florida), foundations, the business community, and the Florida College System to identify ways help our students be successful.

In collaboration with the Helmsley Charitable Trust, each of our three institutions has identified areas where students are not being successful and have been generating ideas for how to address those gaps.  For months, our faculty learning communities (FLCs) have been collecting data and brainstorming ideas. A few of the ideas generated by faculty have included revamping curriculum and teaching practices, building community among students and faculty, and coordinating course learning goals and objectives.

On April 15th, nearly 70 faculty from the Consortium institutions met for the second Faculty Learning Community Summit.  At the summit, faculty were able to collaborate and exchange ideas with colleagues at both an intra and inter university level.  Faculty conveyed that the summit allowed them to gain an “understanding each other’s needs both in discipline and across discipline” and to “network and reinforce the relationships between the faculty on all three campuses.”

Also at the FLC summit, faculty learned of an opportunity further develop their ideas and apply for a mini-grant from the Consortium.  These mini-grants will allow for faculty to collaborate and actively plan for class, department, and campus solutions to improve STEM education at our three institutions.  In other words, faculty are given the opportunity to put their ideas into action!

The next FLC Summit will be hosted by Florida International University in September.  There faculty will present their mini-grant proposal ideas and discuss their potential benefits to the Consortium, our three partner institutions, and our students.

The Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities aims to produce more career-ready graduates with lower debt, better training and workforce skills that meet the demand of Florida’s growing economy. The Florida Consortium is a collaborative endeavor between Florida International University, the University of Central Florida, and the University of South Florida. Operationally formed with consultation and support from the Helios Education Foundation, the Consortium will grow the number of degreed professionals and positively impact Florida’s economic development. Consortium institutions serve 47% of State University System total enrollment and 54% of the state’s undergraduate minority enrollment.

This post originally appeared on the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities website.

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