STEM-H Institute Established to Focus on Critical Fields of Study

photo of Jaleh Rezaie

Eastern Kentucky University has established a STEM-H Institute to enhance teaching and learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health at all educational levels by focusing on outreach, teaching, professional development and research.

“These are the fields that guide our future economic growth as a region, state and nation,” said Dr. Jaleh Rezaie, associate dean of Graduate Education and Research and interim executive director of EKU’s STEM-H Institute. “Unfortunately, the pipeline that begins at pre-kindergarten and extends to STEM-H related jobs is shrinking. By focusing on outreach, teaching, professional development and research with the goal of increasing the number of students who are interested and prepared to enroll in the STEM-H fields and assisting them to complete their degrees and enter the workforce, EKU will be fulfilling its mission of student success and regional stewardship.”

The institute also complies with Kentucky Senate Bill 1 (2009) as it relates to college readiness.

The first task of the institute will be to work with and support EKU’s Mathematics Transitions Initiative, which was developed by a faculty team in the University’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics. For the past three years, the team has facilitated “transition to college” mathematics courses to help school districts throughout the region prepare their students for college coursework and reduce the need for remediation. The EKU team’s work has resulted in a significantly reduced need for developmental college courses and, consequently, a cost savings for many EKU students and families. Ultimately, it is expected to result in improved retention and graduation rates.

“The knowledge gained from this initiative and the relationships developed with the K-12 schools will serve as a foundation for the Institute’s initiatives for outreach, teaching, professional development, and research in the other STEM-H fields,” said Rezaie, a former chair of EKU Department of Computer Science. “With the continued success of the Math Transitions Initiative, the number of high school graduates who are STEM-H ready is expected to increase, supporting the efforts of EKU and other Kentucky higher education institutions in recruitment, retention and graduation of students in these fields.”

Rezaie said the institute will serve to “bring all the related activities of the STEM-H departments under one umbrella to facilitate collaboration in creating awareness, recruitment and retention of students, grant writing and outreach to the K-12 schools and the community. This collaboration will reduce duplication of efforts and will increase the level of awareness within and without the university, the number of students in the STEM-H fields, amount of related grants received by the university and other outreach efforts.”

EKU is one of the first colleges or universities in Kentucky to dedicate an office to STEM or STEM-H projects, according to Rezaie. For the 2011-12 academic year, the STEM-H Institute will be housed in EKU’s Office of Graduate Education and Research.

“One of the goals of the institute is to motivate and support research and external funding that address important needs or topics in STEM-H education,” Rezaie said, “so it was a natural fit for the institute to be housed in Graduate Education and Research.”

Published on October 14, 2011