December 2020
Monthly News

STEM Council Strategic Planning Charts Future Course

Hub Institutions Unsung Heroes for Iowa STEM

2020 STEM Spotlight

The Future of STEM Education in Iowa

January 14, 2021 - 11:00 a.m.
South Central Regional STEM Advisory Board Meeting

January 14, 2021 - 1:00 p.m.
Northwest Regional STEM Advisory Board Meeting

January 21, 2021 - 11:00 a.m.
Southeast Regional STEM Advisory Board Meeting

January 22, 2021 - 12:00 p.m.
North Central Regional STEM Advisory Board Meeting

January 25, 2021 - 12:00 p.m.
Southwest Regional STEM Advisory Board Meeting
STEM Council Strategic Planning Charts Future Course
Members of the STEM Advisory Council met in January and launched five working groups to make recommendations that will shape the future of STEM in Iowa.
Members of the STEM Advisory Council alongside academic, business, public policy and nonprofit leaders and passionate volunteers took part in a six-month quest to chart the course of STEM in Iowa. Beginning with an array of dozens of brainstormed priorities on the table, Council members focused in on four most pressing areas plus one special study. Working groups were formed around those five areas and contributors gave their time, ideas and expertise to developing recommendations for:

  • STEM Career Exploration and Guidance
  • District Best Practices in STEM
  • Equity in STEM
  • STEM to STEAM?
  • STEM Teacher Preparation and Professional Development

These working groups served the STEM Council valiantly in incubating actions to realize those priorities. Following months of meetings, research and collaboration, the working groups delivered twelve recommendations to the STEM Advisory Council. Collectively, the STEM Advisory Council ranked the recommendations in order of urgency. The six of those receiving the highest ranks are:

  1. Increase the diverse youth voice in STEM programming and outreach.
  2. Prioritize an equity focus in STEM communications and professional learning opportunities.
  3. Increase diverse role models in STEM programming and outreach.
  4. Assemble a STEM Education Collaborative to support STEM pre-service and in-service teachers.
  5. Create an Iowa STEM Solutions Resource Map/Guide.
  6. Capture and share Iowa STEM Remote Connectivity Best Practices, such as a play book providing links and resources of existing material to facilitate online/remote learning for STEM stakeholders, a "how-to" for planning virtual STEM events/webinars that highlight successes.

Complementing the strategic planning process has been a series of Council member conversations conducted by the executive director through November and December. The culmination will be a merged report of all quantitative and qualitative data presented to Council leadership in early 2021 for clearance to proceed on key actions.

A special “thank you” goes out to all of the working group members who were selflessly committed to mapping out these priorities. These recommended actions will guide the STEM Council forward into 2021 and beyond and will leave a lasting impact on students in Iowa.
Hub Institutions Unsung Heroes for Iowa STEM
Iowa's statewide STEM program is supported by seven higher education institutions operating as regional hubs, each selected in 2012 and renewed in 2015 and again in 2018.
Delivery of many critical services to STEM learners across Iowa through Scale-Up, regional festivals, and more is only possible thanks to six Regional Hub Institutions, each operated by a Regional Manager, and each jointly over-seen by a Hub Institution supervisor. And just as December brings an end to the calendar year, this month also concludes Dr. Bill Lamb’s service as regional STEM hub institution co-supervisor in the Southeast region. As vice president of academic affairs at Kirkwood Community College, Lamb voluntarily stepped into this role in June 2012, serving alongside his University of Iowa co-supervisor in a unique partnership. He has received numerous awards throughout his career, has been active in various organizations, a leader in the communities he lived in and a valued partnering voice on behalf of the regional hub institutions.

Reflecting on his early days with the STEM Council, he said, “I attended a STEM Advisory Council meeting before I filled the role of hub supervisor. My first impression was this was a group that is going to make a difference for students and schools throughout the state.”

Throughout his tenure, some of his best memories were seeing how STEM programming and events benefit the local community. Lamb attended multiple STEM festivals where he saw local businesses, families and schools come together in support of developing future leaders.

When asked about advice he has to offer based on his experience with the STEM Council, he said, “Look for unique opportunities to collaborate. Building relationships and collaboration is foundational for STEM in the regions. My role was to reduce barriers, connect people that have expertise to share and align goals and activities with resources.”

Iowa’s six STEM hub institutions were established in early 2012 through a competitive proposal process. They are:

  • Iowa Lakes Community College located in the Northwest STEM Region
  • Iowa State University located in the North Central STEM Region
  • University of Northern Iowa located in the Northeast STEM Region
  • Southwestern Community College located in the Southwest STEM Region
  • Drake University located in the South Central STEM Region
  • The University of Iowa and Kirkwood Community College collaborative located in the Southeast STEM Region

The STEM Council deeply appreciates Dr. Lamb, and all the other STEM hub institution supervisors and their institutions for their ongoing commitment and generous involvement in the STEM Council.

For more information about the regional STEM hub institutions and the STEM Council framework, visit
2020 STEM Spotlight
Sam Edster-Mitchell, a biology teacher at Norwalk High School, was a 2020 teacher extern at Kemin Industries. The STEM Teacher Externship Program looked a little different this year, as did many of the STEM Council programming and events. Despite the many challenges in 2020, there is much to celebrate in awareness and progress of STEM education.
2020 has been an unforgettable year. While it played out differently than anyone may have expected, STEM principles were spotlighted in many ways during this pandemic year. From medical professionals addressing mitigation efforts to statisticians analyzing patterns, the impact of STEM education in our everyday lives was even more apparent.

A basic principle of STEM learning is to define the goals and develop a course of action when faced with a challenge. In the early weeks of the pandemic and as those weeks turned into months, the STEM Council’s operations team swiftly adapted plans for programs and events in the midst of the social distancing, safety precautions, Zoom meetings and even quarantine situations. Despite the hurdles throughout the year, Iowa’s STEM Council was well-represented delivering outstanding programming.

A record-breaking number of 109 outstanding proposals were submitted from program providers seeking to scale their programs to Iowa educators through the STEM Scale-Up Program. A fresh, innovative and world-class menu of 12 programs was approved by the STEM Council Executive Committee. The Scale-Up Program menu will debut in early January 2021.

Twelve STEM BEST (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers) Programs were awarded for a total of 75 STEM BEST Programs awards since 2014.

Despite the pandemic, the STEM Teacher Externship Program was able to safely support nearly two-thirds capacity with 48 Iowa teachers in summer workplace placements.

Iowa STEM Teacher Awards nominations were up this year with more than 130 completed nominations. Six awardees will be announced in February 2021.

Regional STEM Festivals have been reformatted to provide the educational learning opportunities that spark interest in STEM, now in virtual formats.

A sold-out professional development workshop was held on fostering equity in the STEM classroom with a focus on prioritizing equity, diversity and inclusion.

The Teachable Moment webpage was launched to provide easily accessible STEM lessons and activities for a variety of schooling scenarios.

Two seasons of the STEM Essential podcast were made available featuring leading advocates and voices discussing the impact of STEM education and what it means for the future of Iowa’s students.

Regular Twitter chats are being held to connect STEM educators and communities for sharing ideas and resources that strengthen STEM learning experiences for all Iowans.

Monthly blog posts share perspectives and experiences of STEM leaders and partners on relevant and timely topics.

Virtual STEM activities and demonstrations were shared by Iowa STEM Teacher Awardees and partners of the STEM Council as part of STEM Day at the Iowa State Fair.

Six new STEM PSAs were launched along with many other inspiring and educational efforts.

And, there is so much more to look forward to in 2021. This year taught us that STEM can help us handle any challenge we may face in the new year.

To learn more about the opportunities available through the STEM Council, visit
The Future of STEM Education in Iowa
Two-thirds of Iowans (66%) had heard of the acronym STEM. This is an increase from 25 percent in 2013, according to the 2018-2019 Iowa STEM Evaluation Report.
[This is an excerpt from a December 2, 2020, Des Moines Register column by executive director Jeff Weld titled “What is the Next Step for STEM Education in Iowa”]

The education movement known as STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) started at the turn of the 21st century as a response to a plea from industry to produce more technologists, engineers, researchers, actuaries and other professionals for high-demand fields. It has swiftly morphed into a broader education reform movement.

Iowa was one of the first U.S. states to launch a formal STEM education initiative, the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, in 2011. Since then nearly every state has implemented a similar program. True to the original impetus for STEM, Iowa’s Council initially focused on bolstering K-12 mathematics and science class, messaging to parents and communities the need for more STEM professionals and monitoring trends in production.

By 2014, the landscape around STEM rapidly shifted as successes accumulated though subsets of learners and communities remained underserved. The STEM Council recognized an obligation to widen its vision. Target populations were highlighted. Partners complemented and amplified efforts of the STEM Council. Programmers provided a means for fulfilling the Council’s promise. Although our underlying goal to increase the interest and achievement of STEM learners is timeless, the concept of who they are and how to get there evolved through the years.

Today, nearly every school district in Iowa has participated in at least one of the STEM Council’s dozen programs. Thousands of educators and tens of thousands of youth take part each year. Student STEM participants perform better on standardized mathematics and science tests and express more interest in STEM jobs here in Iowa when they graduate with the gains by minority students even more pronounced. No surprise that public support for STEM education is well above ninety percent. Such evidence compels the state Legislature to back our progress through faithful annual funding, augmented by robust private sector investments.

So what does the near and long term future hold for STEM education in Iowa? Like any experiment that works, priority one is to see that everyone who could benefit from the treatment gets it, and we’re a long way from reaching all students and educators. For the near term then, Iowa’s STEM education system should continuously improve the development and delivery of services especially to those underserved.
Happy Holidays from everyone at the
Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council!
We thank you for being a part of the STEM community and wish you the very best in 2021!
Contact the Iowa STEM Operations Center by phone at (319) 273-2959
or by email at