The Future is STEM

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Photo credit: Billion Oyster Project/CCERS

Having been a student, professor, college administrator,
parent and now director of a federal agency, the onset of the school season has
always played an important role in my life. Every year I am excited by our
country’s growing emphasis on engaging increasingly diverse students in STEM
fields early in their K-12 education. In the past weeks, NSF announced the 2017
NSF INCLUDES awards
, which will expand on the inaugural 2016 NSF INCLUDES awards’
success in broadening participation in science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM). These awards are broadening STEM participation on a
national scale and uniting a wide variety of collaborators to nurture young
scientists and engineers.

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Photo credit: ESA

Whether you are in Kindergarten or college, starting strong
is vital to any successful school career. It’s never too late to learn about
NSF-funded STEM education programs.

For example, NSF’s CyberCorps:
Scholarship for Service
program provides scholarships to students pursuing cybersecurity-related
studies. In return, recipients work after graduation in government positions
related to cybersecurity for a set period of time. If you’re a community
college student with a STEM-based solution to a real-world problem, you may be
interested in NSF’s Community
College Innovation Challenge
. And one of NSF’s best-known programs for
broadening participation is the Louis Stokes
Alliances for Minority Participation
. This program works to boost the
numbers of students successfully completing high-quality degree programs in
STEM fields. Broadening participation in STEM education through programs like
these invites new ideas and perspectives that will help us meet pressing global
challenges.

These are just a few of the many programs NSF supports. I
encourage you to explore all the graduate
and undergraduate
opportunities available to you. If a program doesn’t fit your major or field of
study but still excites you, I hope you explore your passion. You may learn you
have a talent or interest you weren’t aware of, and individuals with STEM
skills do not necessarily follow a linear path. Having gone from receiving a
bachelor’s degree in English to a doctorate in Physics, I’m living proof that
there is no set pathway to a STEM career or entry point for STEM education.
STEM skills enable pathways to many careers, STEM and non-STEM alike.

I hope you have a great year!