University of Rochester

Rochester Region Brainstorms on How to Attract Next Generation to Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers

November 3, 2009

University of Rochester President Joel Seligman and New York State Vice Chancellor of the Board of Regents Milton Cofield and Regent Wade Norwood will host a day of discussion and debate on Nov. 4 to discover new ways to develop student interest in science-related fields.

The goal of the Progressive Dialogue, made possible by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the leadership of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., is to design a strategic roadmap for increasing the number of students—from all backgrounds—aspiring to and prepared for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

"Developing a strong, interdisciplinary STEM curriculum in middle school and high school is only half the battle," said Seligman. "Coaching teachers on the use of new technology and offering laboratory visits to younger students energizes the classroom experience. New York has some of the country's best high schools and universities, but we need to do more."

"At the University of Rochester, for instance, the Warner School of Education is using National Science Foundation funds to encourage and train undergraduates in STEM fields to be science and math teachers, and to help science professionals make career changes to teaching," he stated. "Professors in engineering, physics, and medicine, among others, also design summer and Saturday programs for teens."

The Rochester summit will be held at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester with about 50 invited guests from higher education, local school districts, government, and business. The regional dialogues also are taking place in Buffalo, the Capital Region, Long Island, New York City, the Southern Tier, Syracuse, and Yonkers this fall.

The first dialogue was hosted in June by Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. More than 100 leaders came together to consider the state of STEM education in New York, learn about innovations under way in other states, and suggest strategies for advancing STEM opportunities in the state. That event coupled with the statewide dialogues will culminate in recommendations in 2010.

The series of dialogues around the state provide a forum for representatives from such groups as business, education, government, corporate and private foundations, community-based organizations, and parents to suggest strategies to help prepare the next generation of New York's graduates to create, innovate, and compete in the global economy.