STEM skills, education getting a boost in Illinois

Linda Chapa LaVia

Illinois State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia visited Aurora University in July 2013 to help announce a $3.5 million capital investment to help build the John C. Dunham STEM School.

Nationwide, STEM education — the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — is a major focus among educators, legislators and employers, who stress the importance of these subjects to prepare students for thriving careers in the global workforce.

However, American public school students have fallen behind their international peers in crucial science and mathematics disciplines. Moreover, fewer U.S. students are pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in STEM fields.

This is happening at a time when American employers are already forced to look overseas to hire professionals in key STEM fields. This is a national problem with local significance. Critical shortages in STEM-prepared workers exist today in Illinois and its Fox River Valley.

As a public-minded private university, Aurora University is committed to helping solve this problem through an innovative new model for STEM education. With the support of a long list of corporate, civic, nonprofit, business and education partners, Aurora University will open the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School in fall 2014.

The school will serve 200 elementary and middle school students from four area school districts and be staffed via a unique professional model. Teachers will be drawn from four partner districts and may earn content-based STEM master’s degrees during their residency in the school. They then will return to their home districts ready to serve as teacher leaders and a new cohort of professionals will take their places.

Initiatives such as the STEM Partnership School have the potential to serve as an economic engine and more of these partnerships are needed in Illinois to support the ability to attract and retain top STEM talent to fuel economic growth.

To read more about the STEM initiative and learn how Illinois State Representatives Linda Chapa LaVia will be working to expand STEM programs throughout the state, read The State Journal-Register article.