Work is underway in Virginia to create the state’s first STEM network. A coalition, led by the Virginia Department of Education, is bringing together stakeholders to create the STEM plan that will guide the formation of the network.
We talked with Dr. Tina Manglicmot, Director of STEM for the Virginia Department of Education, about the state’s growing progress. If your state is prepared to launch its own network or ready to join Virginia and other high-performing networks, click here to learn more about joining the STEMx network.
Q: What’s Virginia’s vision for STEM?
On July 17, Governor Northam established the Virginia STEM Education Commission. That commission, led by the First Lady of Virginia, will tackle the key steps needed to fully launch a STEM network in our state.
The commission’s key goals form a foundation of Virginia’s future vision for STEM. Those goals are:
- Inspire and empower our students to develop the knowledge, skills, and mindsets necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing, technologically advanced, global society.
- Ensure equitable opportunities and access for every Virginian to become a vital part of a robust STEM ecosystem.
- Continuously improve the awareness, effectiveness, support, and quality of partnerships among educational entities, employers, and nonprofits.
- Create sustainable and supportive conditions to align Virginia’s educational, economic, and community goals.
Q: Why a network or statewide approach?
Virginia has developed a myriad of excellent STEM models, as well as programs that need encouragement to grow. These models and practices have been developed in isolation and do not support a larger vision for the State of Virginia.
A State approach will allow us to create a set of aspirational goals and common terms that will help everyone’s efforts to align and help support a higher need to develop a STEM-literate culture and supportive STEM community that will meet the needs of our evolving workforce. It will also help create a communications network where the various efforts, both best practices, and pitfalls to avoid, can be shared in order to create a more efficient and effective STEM program for all Virginians.
Q: Who are the primary players/stakeholders?
There are several groups that would be considered stakeholders in Virginia STEM. They run all along the typically described pipeline from early childhood programs, K-12, post-secondary opportunities, out-of-school time programming, informal education, and workforce development.
They also include the various groups that support the pipeline from business, industry, manufacturing to community programs and fundraisers.
If we are going to build a state model we need to get a large part of the population aware and engaged in STEM at a local or regional level. It is through the community buy-in that we can sustain a movement that will take energy and effort to help direct the general populace to understand the growing needs in STEM and how it impacts our everyday lives.
Q: What are short-term steps or upcoming opportunities that will guide your work?
Short term steps include obtaining the approval of the Governor’s Office on a State STEM Plan and Advisory Commission so that we have a unified set of goals to help organize the various efforts across the Commonwealth. Without a common set of goals, and terms, we will struggle to create alignment in the various programs impacting youth and adults at various points of their own STEM growth.
A close second step will be identifying leadership throughout Virginia that can help build up the efforts, so local voice and perspective is part of the process as we build a statewide effort. With this effort comes the building of more effective communications and relationships between the various parties, leaders, and ideologies.
Q: What are your focus areas?
From a State perspective, our foci are pretty broad in terms of content but tighten around the pedagogical and andragogical concepts of integration/interdisciplinary programming leading to more transdisciplinary programming helping people see past the silos and learning how various topics/themes and disciplines are needed to truly engage real-world everyday problems.
This is a common problem still influencing current structures in K-16 education, as well as the community at large. It will help to create the scaffolding needed to help Virginians to see how these concepts naturally interweave helping them prepare for the challenges they will face as our community and culture continues to adapt to new knowledge, technology and how we engage it.
Q: Areas you’d love to collaborate on with others?
Most important: Our next steps. At first, it will help to learn more about what other States have done, what they are going through and learn more about the various pathways States are taking as they look to grow themselves. We are unsure of the gaps or misunderstandings we may have in our plan, but to listen to others’ stories may help refine our needs and identify the areas where we would benefit most from the experiences others have already been through.
One specific item where we could use support is how to effectively build regional ‘hubs’ that would help create local/regional voice. We are hoping to do this with centralized state meetings but not create brick and mortar locations at various locations around the State. We are hoping to identify models that can work through changing meeting locations and online structures.
We are also interested in looking at state curriculum supporting transdisciplinary approaches to education and state policy levers developed to support this work such as state assessment models, state standards for learning, and the role of performance assessment.