CORVALLIS, Ore. – As its historic home undergoes extensive physical remodeling, the College of Education at Oregon State University is moving ahead on an academic transformation that will focus research and teaching in two key areas.
Education Dean Sam Stern said the college is reorganizing its programming to focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and cultural and linguistic diversity.
As a first step in this reorganization, the college has announced that Larry Flick will become its associate dean for academic affairs. Flick chairs the Department of Science and Math Education in the College of Science and his new duties will span both colleges.
Stern says this kind of cross-college collaboration offers greater potential for innovative work, especially now that the College of Science and the College of Education are part of the same division, the Division of Arts and Sciences. “I think the division arrangement offers to us huge opportunities that are very different than simply merging colleges,” Stern said. “The sooner we move on those, the sooner we can get on with doing some really interesting things.”
Though the College of Education will focus primarily on STEM and cultural and linguistic diversity, it will continue to offer its innovative double degree program and provide training to college administrators.
“The double degree has been a real success story, and so has our community college leadership program,” Stern said. “They will enable this college as it reorganizes to have greater impact in these areas.”
Flick says the move is “an investment by the College of Science in education. (Science Dean) Sherm Bloomer has voiced his interest in creating a robust STEM research program that will attract external funding,” he said.
Bloomer said this move emerged from “trying to think about what would be a sensible focus for our effort in education at OSU.”
“It’s clear that a focus on science and technology and mathematics and engineering is a pretty sensible thing to do,” Bloomer said. “We can do that in the context of some of the other things the College of Education has done in terms of their diversity work and training people for positions in public education, those can all be elements of programming. STEM is the unifying focus.”
Flick said OSU officials hope the Department of Science and Math Education’s affiliation with the College of Education will bring greater visibility to its efforts.
“We have always existed in a very comfortable and collaborative way in Science, but nobody knows where we are,” Flick said. “We will be on a much bigger platform; it won’t be just the College of Education, it will be the College of Education and the College of Science when it comes to grants and programs.
“Frankly I think that will position OSU uniquely in the country in that respect,” Flick added. “This is a very high profile kind of connection.”
Flick said he and his colleagues believe OSU will be poised to increase the number of STEM teachers it produces, which is “a huge need in Oregon and the country, for that matter.”
A stronger STEM focus provides multiple benefits, OSU officials say, including increasing the number of students who become math and science educators, and increasing the overall ability of other students in science and technology.
“If you look at workforce development assessments, what you see is that you need STEM professionals trained at a level and a depth that the U.S. is not producing,” Bloomer said. “There aren’t enough people and they haven’t been deeply enough trained.”
Bloomer said OSU is positioned to make a big difference in solving that problem.
“For us it makes sense,” he said, “because we as a university are by far the largest science and engineering institution in Oregon.”