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How to open the STEM pipeline

Dec 22, 2022   |   by Philip Hanlon & Sian Beilock   |   The Boston Globe

"We have discovered many things on which we agree," writes Dartmouth President Philip J. Halon '77 and President-elect Sian L. Beilock for The Boston Globe, "and chief among them is this: Our nation must find more effective ways to imbue young people with the curiosity, confidence, and joy to pursue the study of math—as well as science, technology, and engineering."

"...schools should drop the sink-or-swim mentality and fire up undergraduates' imaginations with the realworld problems they might solve through science. Students get more jazzed by puzzles and practice problems than the traditional math and science classes, the latter of which often have a new vocabulary load more similar to learning a foreign language than most other disciplines. Once engaged, educators can set about arming them with the technical terms and other tools to do their work.

"Case in point: Undergraduates at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering first earn a bachelor of arts degree, with its foundation in the broader liberal arts, before going on to earn a bachelor's degree in engineering. In 2016, Thayer was among the first undergraduate engineering programs in the nation to graduate a majority-female class, and the ratio of women to men has held steady since. Many of those students report that entry-level courses, such as design thinking, which weaves in collaboration, teamwork, and an emphasis on empathy, are important in enticing them to study engineering.

"...Our nation needs to make new, targeted investments at scale—drawing on philanthropy, private sector companies, and universities themselves—toward the goal of creating new doors to increase representation in STEM majors, graduate, and post-graduate programs and professions. On Dec. 6, Dartmouth announced Dartmouth STEM-X, a $100 million program that will increase existing efforts, and provide a launchpad for others, toward the goal of preparing and placing talented young people from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM-related advanced degree programs, policy roles, and industry."

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