By Kasi Jackson
The Center has a leading role in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education and Scientific Literacy “Mountain of Excellence”one of five areas identified for strategic investment by WVU. The Flexible Education Research Network (FERN) will develop, identify and test best practices that will broaden participation, as well as improve teaching and learning in STEM fields, thereby developing a strong pipeline for STEM professionals and a scientifically literate public.
FERN will have a primary focus on trans-disciplinary research. Initially centered on K-16, graduate, and professional training in STEM Education, FERN will be restructured as necessary to permit growth beyond STEM as future needs arise. This past year I have organized weekly meetings for a group of faculty and staff (Jeffrey Carver, Education and Human Services; Katie Stores, Eberly College; Robin Hensel, Statler College; Harry Boone, Davis College) to plan the overall direction of FERN. This group serves at the request of the deans of the four colleges. Women’s and gender studies provides training and support for faculty who wish to do trans-disciplinary work blending multiple disciplines’ insights to solve ‘wicked problems’, which include training a broad, diverse and inclusive STEM workforce. WVU’s Center is strong in STEM education due to 1) integration into science education projects that aim to enhance all students’ performance 2) collaborations with STEM researchers who did not previously work with women’s studies, and 3) success in securing external funding to support these activities.
The next step in the FERN Initiative is to hire the four tenure-track faculty: the Eberly Professor of STEM education to serve as a senior faculty member to take a leadership role, and three assistant professors of STEM education in each of the other colleges, as well as a grants development specialist to support faculty efforts, especially those that cross traditional disciplinary and college boundaries.