Thursday, the University of Central Arkansas STEM Institute invited State Representative David Meeks and representatives from Congressman Tim Griffin’s office to show the program’s strengths in an effort to lobby for funding. A number of UCA professors and Charlotte Green, Gifted and Talented/Advanced Placement supervisor of Conway Public Schools was also present.
"The main idea is for everyone to come and see the instruments and teaching materials we offer, so they can utilize our center in a more efficient way," Garimella said.
UCA President Tom Courtway said what UCA does at the STEM Institute is very important to the future of our state and our country. "It’s critical," he said.
The institute is run by a tight-knit group of education specialists. Anita Luyet, administrative specialist; Belinda Robertson, math specialists; Minnietta Ready, science specialist and director Dr. Umadevi Garimella.
The institute focuses on P-16 STEM education that addresses all levels of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education from early childhood to postsecondary, including certification programs, colleges and universities.
"What is unique about the STEM centers is we are the strongest link between K12 and the universities," Garimella said. "I think that link is missing and we are the ones who bring it together."
Located on the UCA campus, the STEM Institute has access to expertise, educational research and teaching resources.
"We bring all that together, and I think that is very rare," Garimella said.
The STEM Institute’s main goal is to provide professional development for science and math teachers.
"We provide support to K12 teachers, so they can teach well, and the students who come to us are of better quality, so we don’t have to go back to remedial math and reading," Garimella said.
Rep. Meeks said he came to learn more about the STEM Institute because he sees a problem with remedial education in the state of Arkansas.
"If you don’t have to provide remedial," he said, "students have a better chance at success."
Within the STEM Institute there are two rooms, one for science and one for math, filled with teaching resources for K12 teachers to utilize in their classrooms.
Green said the institute has been a major asset for Conway Public Schools.
"Teachers walk away with materials in their hands — it’s invaluable," she said.
Last fall, UCA was selected as one of three state universities to add the UTeach program to its current curriculum.
UTeach is part of Gov. Mike Beebe and the Workforce Cabinet’s efforts to implement STEM Works, an initiative to overhaul the way Arkansas high school students receive STEM, education, and to ultimately increase the number of qualified STEM teachers.
The UTeach program makes it possible for science and math majors to obtain their teaching license while obtaining their degree.
"They can take free classes in education to add the licensure to their science and math degree," Garimella said.
Alicia Cotabish, assistant professor in the College of Education, said the STEM Institute has been a huge asset to her and her graduate students.
"Uma has been very good to me and our department working with our graduate students, and allowing them to have access to technology and curriculum resources," she said. "Your door is always open and you’re always so welcoming to them."
In five years, the institute has brought in $2.7 million in grant funding, and Garimella said 50 to 75 percent of these funds go to teachers.
The STEM Institute is located on the second floor of Main Hall in room 212 on the UCA campus. The institute can be reached by phone at 501-450-3426, and found on the web at uca.edu/steminstitute.
(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)