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    Op-Ed: STEM Education and IIT Engineering Themes

    Fall 2012

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    Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiatives affect more than the K–12 education system. Science- and engineering-focused universities such as Illinois Institute of Technology are strongly invested in seeing these initiatives succeed.

    In February 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) reported that K–12 STEM preparation is so deficient that colleges and universities are spending at least $2 billion per year to help students compensate for knowledge gaps in STEM fields.

    In response to this report, President Obama announced the $1 billion Master Teacher Corps, which provides stipends as incentives for high-performing K–12 STEM teachers. The goal is to create a strong network of excellent teachers who will raise the quality of STEM education.

    Still, change in educational systems and culture is a slow process. The Master Teacher Corps will start small—with 50 top teachers—and expand to 10,000 over four years, relying on a multiplier effect to accelerate change.

    We cannot afford to have change materialize slowly. We must take steps to immediately address deficiencies to ensure that the current graduating class benefits from the double-digit job growth projected for STEM fields by 2018.

    As a small, private university, IIT is uniquely situated to address the knowledge gap. Our engineering programs are strong, yet nimble, enabling students to overcome inadequacies in STEM education through new initiatives such as the IIT Engineering Themes.

    The IIT Engineering Themes are an optional set of enrichment experiences that help undergraduates impact worldwide engineering issues while completing an accredited degree in their chosen field—without modifying their degree plan.

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