Supporters of STEM education working to increase opportunities for Texas college students

12.03.2013 | By

Supporters of STEM education recently attended the Partners in STEM reception, hosted by San Jacinto College, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The event featured a robotics station by the College’s math department, where attendees could drive and earn a robotics drivers license. (left to right) Dr. Allatia Harris, San Jacinto College Vice Chancellor of Strategic Initiatives, Workforce Development, Community Relations and Diversity; Mr. Dan Mims, chairman, San Jacinto College Board of Trustees; and the Honorable Mike Sullivan, Harris County Tax Assessor. Photo credit: Jeannie Peng-Armao, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.


Supporters of STEM education working to increase opportunities for Texas college students

Jeannie Peng-Armao -- December 4, 2013



PASADENA, Texas – As rankings show the United States lagging behind in math and science, San Jacinto College aims to increase student interest in the careers that will demand more of those science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.

The College recently hosted a Partners in STEM reception at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, kicking off the formation of a STEM Council and raising more than $10,000 for STEM student scholarships. Comprised of faculty experts and administrators, the Council is working to develop initiatives to educate students and the community on the various pathways that lead to the STEM careers, which is projected to comprise 60 percent of the new jobs, yet only 20 percent of the current workforce is qualified, according to the National Math and Science Initiative.

Dr. Sonia Garcia, director of recruitment for the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University, said very few students are aware of the large variety of careers in high demand that relate back to the STEM fields.

"Not a lot people know about the opportunities that exist in areas like the geosciences and that we are a part of STEM," said Dr. Garcia. "Yet right now, this is one of the hottest areas for hiring, especially in the areas of petroleum geology, the energy sector, and geographic information systems. We are taking this very seriously, and we thought this was a very appropriate event to attend to start a pipeline with San Jacinto College."

Already, the College has hosted a series of STEM-related initiatives that have included projects hosted by the College's Aerospace Academy in partnership with NASA, environmental science projects with local organizations like the Armand Bayou Nature Center, science service learning with local school districts, and robotics education and sponsorship of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech Challenge southeast region competitions.

"What we are seeing is that many of our students come to us unprepared for college-level courses in math and science," said Dr. Ann Cartwright, San Jacinto College department chair of physical science and co-chair of the San Jacinto College STEM Council. "In result, we have become very involved in service learning with K-12 students. When they come to visit us for a half a day, it is very important that they remember the feeling of excitement that science and math education can bring. It is important for them to catch the attitude that these fields are not only beneficial to our society, but that they are enjoyable as well.”

Dr. Cartwright noted that service learning gives college students the chance to teach and share with K-12 students what they have learned in the classroom, strengthening classroom curriculum through further application.

The STEM Council's mission is also to increase student awareness of STEM-related workforce training, added Dr. Richard Bailey, San Jacinto College vice president of accreditation and special initiatives and co-chair of the STEM Council. The top 10 STEM occupations in the Houston metroplex, according to The Brookings Institution, include health diagnosing and treatment, engineers, computer occupations, construction trades workers, financial specialists, metal and plastic workers, maintenance and repair occupations, drafting/engineer/mapping technicians, health technologists and technicians, and management occupations.

"Students really have a full range of options when it comes to choosing a STEM career, and we as educators must work to increase awareness of these very lucrative career areas," said Dr. Bailey. "Science and math education is needed across the board, from academic to technical education."

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150 or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.