It's time to have a conversation about how we will ensure that every student, every educator, and every community member knows they belong and are valued members of the STEM community. Over the next few months, we'll explore how our Alliance is protecting, engendering, and advocating for the right of every child, family member, community member, and educator to truly believe they belong in STEM.Join the Conversation
Part 1: A New Hope for STEM Across Oklahoma
I have the awesome privilege of getting to interact with folks from across our community who have so many hopes and dreams for our children. From teachers and administrators to partners working in informal and extended learning settings, to those who are engaged explicitly in workforce development efforts, to family members who want the very best for their kids, and those who commit themselves and their funding to advance excellent STEM education experiences, so many members of our community are doing the real work of realizing their hopes and dreams every day. As an Alliance, we have grown so much in the right direction to reduce barriers to access to, improve the quality of, and collaborate around STEM experiences we know youth in our community deserve. If you’ve been a part of the Tulsa region for the last decade, you know we’ve come so far!
As always, Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance embraces the opportunity to reflect on our beliefs and practices to ensure we are evolving, just as our community is. I’d like to share a few updates about our Beliefs and Mission with you, and I’d like to invite you to be a part of a new conversation aimed at collectively defining the Hopes we have for our STEM community.
Read on to learn more and add your name to the planning committee!
Our Core Beliefs
In late 2021, our team began to say a phrase that just kind of materialized in our conversations that seemed to embody our mission and team values into a simple motto of sorts:
STEM is Everywhere. STEM is Everyone. All are Welcome.
The statement resonates with us, in part, because we felt the need to affirm this truth and to also articulate this aspiration as a way of inviting those who felt that they didn’t belong for whatever reason. It felt like a way of talking about our purpose that was perfectly descriptive and motivating. From brilliant STEM educators who don’t self-identify as experts to youth and community members who carry the destructive view that they aren’t a math or science person, the motto gave us hope that we might collectively convince them all that they were, in fact, part of STEM.
We didn’t know at the time how much this belief statement would serve as a touchpoint for our team, but I can proudly say that our team is actively doing everything we can to ensure we live out this belief in everything we do.
An Updated Mission
In early 2022, Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance updated our mission statement. Without even appreciating how the stars aligned at the time, the new mission statement would build upon our motto perfectly.
With some 300+ responses to our community survey and the involvement of 50+ representatives who participated in focus groups and strategic planning meetings*, our new mission statement was conceived that (1) would recognize that any of the outcomes we might hope for will be the product of our collective efforts as a community and (2) that even students who don’t join the STEM workforce should gain confidence and competence in the STEM disciplines so they might utilize them in their life whether in their careers, as productive members of our community, or in play.
Here’s where we landed:
Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance’s mission is to cultivate impactful partnerships and learning pathways that inspire and prepare all youth for a STEM-enabled future.
The idea that we would work to inspire and prepare all youth truly gives me hope! What a challenge we have before us to really think about what that takes. Our students come from many varied backgrounds, and their needs and strengths are numerous! Creating experiences that meet them where they are, requires us to know them and their families and ensure our learning environments are safe and supportive.
*Check out our 2022-25 Strategic Plan at https://tulsastem.org/plan.
Co-Authoring our Collective Hope
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recently released their new strategic plan, “Blueprint 2030: Innovating and Elevating Oklahoma Higher Education for Tomorrow’s Workforce.” In it, they set many ambitious strategies, including one that especially resonated with me:
Align higher education programs with workforce demand, with a goal to produce 100,000 degrees and other credentials in STEM and critical occupations by 2030 (p. 1).
That’s a lot! They go on to say that Oklahoma’s K-12 student population is now majority non-white, and while college enrollment continues to diversify and, disappointingly, decrease, the overall production of degrees has steadily increased. And while the value of ACT scores as a reliable indicator of college success continues to be questioned with good reason, they highlight that “only 10% of Oklahoma students tested met all four ACT college readiness benchmarks, and just 6% are ready to study in the STEM fields” (p. 5).
In order for our state to make meaningful strides in this endeavor, I can’t help but believe that the PREPARATION for STEM degrees requires INSPIRATION, and no such inspiration can occur when students don’t feel like they BELONG.
Understanding that BELONGING is fundamental to the equation, we would like to begin a conversation with you about your hopes for our students and their sense of belonging in the STEM experiences we create for them across our community. To ensure the conversation is designed to be inclusive and productive, I’d like to invite you to consider being part of a small planning team who will set out goals and strategies for convening folks to engage in this conversation. We’ll hold 2-3 virtual planning meetings over the summer to plan and conduct a summit, of sorts, later this fall. The first virtual meeting will be held on July 13, 2023, at 1pm.
If you are interested in helping to start the conversation so we can better define our collective hopes, please add your name to this list through the link below!