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What is STEM?

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Student and faculty at a computerAs stated in the recent (August 2009) final report of Maryland's Governor Martin O’Malley's task force on STEM (PDF), "The problem in Maryland is that although we now have enviable prosperity and a strong knowledge-based economy, competing states significantly out-produce us in terms of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates, STEM workforce development, and STEM-based economic development. If present trends continue, our competitors will overtake us. For Maryland, standing still is falling behind".. The Report related that Maryland has over 6,000 STEM job openings a year and yet Maryland schools are only producing approximately 4,000 STEM graduates. And the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, which will transition an estimated 30,000-60,000 new jobs to Maryland many of which are STEM professions according to the Governor’s BRAC Subcabinet, has brought to the forefront Maryland’s urgent STEM needs. In order to fulfill the demands for qualified workers in STEM fields, a coordinated and collaborative approach must occur in both the public and private sectors among educational institutions, agencies, businesses, and government. In 2005, Maryland’s 24 school districts sought to hire 1,375 new qualified teachers of mathematics and science, but were able to find only 960. In other words, there is about a 30% shortfall in the supply of new math and science teachers. This general situation has existed for some years and is worsening.

To significantly address this situation, the State of Maryland, the University System of Maryland (USM), and SU have been aggressively mobilizing to meet Maryland’s and our nation’s need for an expanded workforce in STEM areas. Taking an early lead for higher education in Maryland, the Chancellor of the USM, Dr. William Kirwan, identified STEM as one of his three priorities for the System at the beginning of the 2007 academic year setting a five-year goal to increase the number of STEM graduates by 40% and triple the number of graduates qualified to teach STEM in K-12 schools. Chancellor Kirwan also established USM Task Forces on STEM Workforce and on Research and Economic Competitiveness. In April 2009, the USM hosted a STEM Symposium (with funding from NSF) bringing together representatives from all 13 USM institutions and national experts from NSF and the U.S. Department of Education to focus on STEM. It included speakers such as the U.S. Secretary of Education, The Honorable Arne Duncan, and Norman Augustine, chair of the National Academies Committee that authored "Rising Above the Gathering Storm."

robotSalisbury University formally marked the commencement of its STEM initiatives with a STEM Conference in October of 2007, which included broad representation of the regional academic and business community. Over 50 participants from all four SU academic schools, four local school districts and five local businesses gathered to hear about STEM projects completed or in progress and to determine ways to collaborate on projects in the future. From this beginning, SU has rapidly expanded its STEM programs and has created the administrative position of a campus STEM Coordinator. Ms. Kristen Paul ( serves as STEM Coordinator and will work to develop, strengthen, and promote SU STEM education and outreach in the region. Working closely with the science and education school deans, Ms. Paul will (a) coordinate strategies for increasing recruitment and retention of STEM majors and seek external funding for same; (b) support and seek funding for activities aimed at enhancing production of secondary math and science education teachers; (c) support networking activities with local educational and corporate entities; and (d) coordinate effective assessment of STEM efforts on campus.

In addition to creating the STEM Coordinator position, SU has established a STEM Advisory Board to engage non-SU educational and vocational entities in our region in guiding, coordinating, and assisting in our STEM programs. The committee membership consists of eight SU faculty, the deans of the science and education schools, the SU STEM Coordinator, the county school superintendents of all nine Eastern Shore of Maryland counties, the three contiguous public school system STEM coordinators, the economic development directors of the four lower Eastern Shore counties, and a representative of Salisbury’s regional hospital. To help in the oversight and development of STEM activities on campus, SU has also created its STEM Steering Committee composed of the five academic deans, the associate provost, and the STEM Coordinator.

Building STEM programming to increase the number of students that graduate in STEM majors is also a key goal in SU’s most recent Strategic Plan (2009-2013), and even prior to this current plan, SU developed a number of activities intended to recruit, retain, and graduate STEM majors. Perhaps the most critical resource to our STEM majors are the faculty who share the campus-wide philosophy of student-centered learning and the view that engaged learning is vital to this goal. STEM students are routinely involved in research projects with faculty. For example, in the Department of Chemistry, ten tenure-track/tenured faculty have supported approximately 24 academic-year and summer research students each year. Salisbury University STEM students can apply for financial support of their research projects through University-wide and Henson School of Science & Technology funding programs. An endowment-funded REU-like program for STEM student-researchers has existed since 2005, and in 2012, SU was awarded its first NSF-sponsored REU program in Parallel Computing  (

Living-Learning Communities (LLC)

Living-Learning Communities (LLC) are well known to improve undergraduate student retention and other positive outcomes (Stassen, 2004). SU established its first STEM LLC in fall 2009. In the STEM LLC, first-year science and math majors live together and participate in two required courses (Calculus I and Nature, Science, and Technology in the Making of the Modern World) and engage in various co-curricular activities together including learning about paths to a variety of STEM careers. To help support this LLC, SU was awarded a grant from the USM to plan and begin to implement key components of this community.

   For more information on STEM, please contact the SU STEM Coordinator,
   Ms. Kristen Paul (

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