What is STEM?
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are critical to the American prosperity and preeminence. These fields lead the way in health, innovation, business ingenuity, global competitiveness, national security and technological advances. The fields of science, engineering, technology and math are integrated and critical to everyday living. Life Sciences, health sciences, social sciences, physical sciences, agriculture sciences, are naturals that come to mind. But they are also integrated into business models, construction and beyond.
National Call to Action
In 2001, U.S. Senators Gary Hart and Walter Rudman co-chaired the U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century. The report offered 14 conclusions centered around the advancements of science technology, engineering and math. Hart and Rudman suggested, as is depicted in the below quote, that America’s past lens of the destructions of a conventional war would be unmatched by the future crisis of not ensuring a robust research and educational environment.
While Hart and Rudman’s findings were important, they did not represent a new concept. Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math have long been on the world stage – from the days of the Space Race when science was at the forefront of federal funding, to when Sputnik raised concerns about America’s educational system being able to compete on a global scale, to 1958 when Congress passed the NDEA to provide a student loan program, aid to elementary and secondary school instruction in science, mathematics and foreign languages and graduate student fellowships. And in 2006, both the National Defense Education and Innovation Initiative and the Spelling Commission’s “A Test of Leadership Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education” reiterated the need to invest in STEM education. In fact, in the last 50 years there have been untold calls to action and the same themes have emerged again and again.
U.S. students are far less likely to earn science or engineering Ph.D.s than students in other countries. According to a National Science Foundation report, the U.S. ranked 16th out of 17 countries in the share of science and engineering degrees among all degrees awarded.
Why Aren't American Students Choosing STEM fields?
While the United States is falling behind as a nation, a look at the data on the pipeline of students that are matriculating into Florida universities offers a look into the cause of the problem.
Florida has the lowest spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, lowest per pupil spending, fewer high school graduates and very few that come out of high school prepared to enter these challenging fields.
In fact, the White House’s 2004 initiative “Educating America: The President's Initiatives for High School, Higher Education and Job Training” said that nationally, of 100 ninth-graders, only 68 will graduate from high school on time, only 38 will directly enter college, only 26 are still enrolled their sophomore year and only 18 will end up graduating from college. The rates for minority students are even lower. Only one-third of America’s workforce has any post-secondary education, yet 60 percent of new jobs in the 21st century require post-secondary education.
How is UWF Making a Difference?
The University of West Florida is a regional comprehensive university focused first on making a difference in the communities it serves across Northwest Florida. While UWF is not a big, research-one school, the university still offers amazing and unmatched opportunities in the STEM fields. UWF is and will continue to be a major player in the economic development and prosperity of the region.
UWF Initiatives and Partnerships: