DCCCD, Educate Texas and partners announce STEM Accelerator initiative

(Dallas) -- Educate Texas, a public-private partnership, announced recently that it has awarded grants for a new statewide initiative that encourages both K-12 and college students to pursue STEM careers.  The Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator Initiative has been created to increase the number of students who graduate from college with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) credentials.

The Educate Texas grant check presentation included (left to right) Oswaldo Alvarenga, STEM executive director, Dallas Independent School District; Dr. Nandika D’Souza , associate dean of the College of Engineering, University of North Texas-Denton; Michelle Thomas, JPMorgan Chase; Ryan Kelsey, Helmsley Charitable Trust; Dr. Joe May, DCCCD chancellor; Dr. Raymund Paredes, commissioner, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; and Florence Shapiro, Communities Foundation of Texas board member and former state senator.

The Educate Texas grant check presentation included (left to right) Oswaldo Alvarenga, STEM executive director, Dallas Independent School District; Dr. Nandika D’Souza , associate dean of the College of Engineering, University of North Texas-DentonMichelle Thomas, JPMorgan ChaseRyan Kelsey, Helmsley Charitable TrustDr. Joe May, DCCCD chancellorDr. Raymund Paredes, commissioner, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; and Florence Shapiro, Communities Foundation of Texas board member and former state senator.

During the next 10 years, Texas is projected to have the second-highest percentage of the nation's future STEM job opportunities (approximately 10 percent). The STEM Accelerator initiative will address this growth by strategically increasing the number of underrepresented students earning STEM degrees throughout the state.

The STEM Accelerator initiative provides grants to five lead colleges and universities in the state. The Dallas County Community College District has been designated as the lead institution for the North Texas STEM pathway in computer science, receiving a three-year grant in the amount of $800,000. 

Other lead institutions across the state that also are receiving STEM Accelerator grants include: Lee College, $750,000, petrochemical STEM pathway; South Texas College, $800,000, nursing and computer science STEM pathways; University of Texas at El Paso, $725,000, engineering STEM pathway; and Western Texas College, $550,000, energy STEM pathway.

DCCCD and each of the other lead institutions have convened regional consortiums that include two- and four-year colleges, K-12 partners and workforce partners who have examined regional workforce data and also identified the STEM pathway(s) they will work with. Those regional partners already have started engaging with faculty and workforce representatives to work on two key areas: redesigning gateway courses for STEM majors while ensuring they align with workforce needs; and providing professional development for faculty to improve teaching and learning in STEM fields.

Regional and local collaborations are critical in order to increase the number of students who graduate from college with STEM credentials.

"The Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator motivates our education and workforce partners to collaborate at a regional level to develop and refine STEM pathways," said John Fitzpatrick, executive director of Educate Texas. "These pathways will result in an increased number of students across the state earning STEM degrees that meet regionally-identified workforce needs. We are proud to be working with a strong public-private coalition of national and state foundations, local business groups and the state of Texas on this pioneering initiative."

The STEM Accelerator gives colleges and universities an opportunity to proactively involve faculty and workforce partners to ensure that students have the knowledge and skills to succeed in their careers, too.

"For every 100 students who enroll in higher education as STEM majors, half are gone by their second year and only 38 remain through graduation," said DCCCD's chancellor, Dr. Joe May. "The STEM Accelerator initiative is critical if we want to turn the tide on this loss by increasing the number of STEM degrees in computer science and information technology across North Texas. We look forward to a robust collaboration with our partners that will benefit students, employers and our community."

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, a national foundation, is the lead donor among a group of charitable foundations supporting the project.

"Texas, which is projected to hold many of the future STEM opportunities in the U.S., is a crucial state that will help us meet our country's goals for new STEM graduates," said Ryan Kelsey, program officer for the Helmsley Charitable Trust's education program.

The North Texas region has been assigned the computer science/information technology STEM pathway because it is one of the fastest-growing career fields in the area.  By 2018, 71 percent of STEM jobs in Dallas are projected to require some proficiency in computing. Those projects include jobs in software engineering (27 percent -- more than 25 percent of all jobs in STEM), computer networking (21 percent) and systems analysis (10 percent).  Computer support and database administration together comprise another 13 percent, according to the STEM Connector.

Faced with one of the nation's highest concentrations of poverty as it experiences top economic growth (one of the top three metro areas in the country), the Dallas team -- led by DCCCD -- plans to address this disparity by increasing educational attainment in a high-demand, middle-skill pathway.

The Dallas regional team will address barriers among faculty and students by developing effective classroom instruction and expanding an online STEM resource by forming cross-institutional professional learning communities and creating an online career portal.

The learning communities will comprise high school, community college and university educators, along with industry professionals and pedagogy experts. The goal of each team is to generate teaching strategies that will create greater confidence and enthusiasm among students as well as the desire to become a computer science or information technology professional.  The effort will emphasize overcoming barriers in areas such as mathematics.

The online career portal, STEM INSIGHT, will enable users to track real-time, day-to-day shifts in professions, salaries and other professional opportunities through the DCCCD Labor Market Intelligence Center by providing readable, student- and faculty-friendly infographics that will be available on request.

Expected outcomes for the North Texas region are to train 105 college faculty and 20 high school teachers and also to serve more than 20,000 college and 14,000 high school students, according to Texas Educates.

The regional North Texas regional partners are: DCCCD (lead partner), University of North Texas, University of North Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas Independent School District, Region 10 Education Service Center, Commit!, Fluor, Sharyland Utilities L.P., JPMorgan Chase, Dallas Regional Chamber, Worforce Solutions Greater Dallas, Workforce Solutions North Central Texas, National Science and Math Initiative, National Academy Foundation, Mary Kay and State Farm Insurance.

The STEM Accelerator has been developed in alignment with priorities for education and workforce outlined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Workforce Commission.  It is funded through the generosity of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, The Kresge Foundation, Greater Texas Foundation, CREEED, JPMorgan Chase, and The W.W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation.

For more information, contact Isaac Ricard at the Communities Foundation of Texas by phone at 214-750-4103 or by email at iricard@CFTexas.orgFor details about DCCCD's involvement, contact Ann Hatch in the office of public and governmental affairs at 214-378-1819 or by email at ahatch@dcccd.edu.