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Schools Strive to Attract More Students to STEM Programs



By Catherine Groux
Posted September 07, 2011 05:45 AM

Many schools are trying to attract more students to their STEM programs.
Many schools are trying to attract more students to their STEM programs.
In the future, there will be a great need for individuals who have at least a bachelor's degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of positions for engineers is expected to grow by approximately 11% in the next seven years, while jobs for mathematicians will increase by about 22% in this time.

To prevent a possible worker shortage in the coming years, many schools are striving to attract more students to STEM-related programs. The University of Southern Mississippi recently expressed its desire to do so by announcing that it plans to launch an undergraduate polymer sciences engineering program, the Hattiesburg American reports. With this new course of study, school officials hope to attract more minorities to the engineering field.

Citing various statistics, the Hattiesburg American reports that a majority of college STEM majors are males, making women underrepresented in the four fields. Additionally, the subjects are lacking a large number of African American and Hispanic participants, which is something the school hopes to change.

Currently, the program is awaiting approval from the state Institutions of Higher Learning board. If the course of study is approved, it will be the only polymer engineering program in Mississippi.

Still, other schools across the nation are finding other ways to prepare students to hold STEM careers after graduation. The University of Nebraska at Omaha, for instance, plans to use a $1 million donation from alumnus George Haddix to prepare more mathematics teachers, the Omaha World-Herald reports.

Coming from a mathematics background and possessing a master's degree in the subject, Haddix knows how valuable STEM training can be for college students. Therefore, he donated the money to his alma mater with the hope that it would be put toward programs that prepare individuals to become teachers of STEM subjects.

Specifically, the funds will help the university establish valuable connections with local organizations and businesses, the World-Herald states. Additionally, faculty members have expressed their interest in traveling to high schools in the area to speak to future college students about becoming math teachers.

Assistant professor Angie Hodge said she is also prepared to assist students who are math majors as well as those who have yet to declare a major.

"You have to go outside the box," she told the World-Herald. "There's lots of different ways to teach and learn math."  

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