New STEM coordinator joins staff at Penn State New Kensington

In an effort to increase the interest of grade-school students in the four core disciplines critical to the development of technological innovations, Maureen Ryan has been named STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) coordinator at Penn State New Kensington.

Ryan, owner and president of Write Connections LLC, a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm specializing in grant writing services, will develop and manage STEM initiatives by bringing together representatives from the campus, local school districts and regional industries.

STEM is a statewide effort dedicated to preparing Pennsylvania students for global competitiveness through a strategy of enhanced education and career development opportunities. The initiatives are designed to increase the number of students, especially females, minorities and the underrepresented, in the STEM fields.

"There are few needs as important to our area as the development of effective strategies to produce a skilled workforce in these critical fields,” said Penn State New Kensington Chancellor Kevin Snider. "Maureen brings substantial experience in both grant writing and project management in STEM and other areas."

Ryan's charge is three-fold: coalesce interdisciplinary teams of grade school teachers and administrators, higher education students and faculty, and industry representatives to determine the best approach to STEM literacy in the region; identify funding opportunities to support the programs; and implement the programs to improve the STEM skills of grade-school students, as well as those of the community workforce.

"Using my experience, I can help develop innovative initiatives and establish a network of partnerships that will support the initiatives for the long term," said Ryan, who holds a master of business administration from Point Park University. "Penn State New Kensington will be at the forefront of educating a new workforce focused on supporting the STEM-related job needs of regional employers."

Collaboration by Alcoa and Penn State New Kensington is the cornerstone of Ryan's vision. The Alcoa Foundation announced in October an investment of $70,000 in the New Kensington campus to augment STEM learning for children from Kindergarten through 12th grade. The initiative, "Alcoa Foundation-Penn State New Kensington Partners for Engaged Learning in STEM Skills," integrates existing STEM activities into a coordinated and sustainable program.

Alcoa Foundation's investment builds on projects already in existence at Penn State New Kensington, such as the FIRSTE (Females Interested in Reaching for Science, Technology and Engineering) and Kids in College programs. FIRSTE is a two-day program that targets potentially college-bound female students in grades nine through 11 who are considering a career in science, technology or engineering. Kids in College is a summer program that offers a variety of academic activities for students in elementary and secondary schools.

"The campus is positioned to be the central hub of the region's education and training around STEM careers," said Ryan. "Its support of WEDIG (Westmoreland Economic Development Initiative for Growth), will provide additional higher education opportunities and economic development programs for the western Pennsylvania region."

WEDIG is an effort to guide local communities in developing and implementing a regional strategic plan. The organization, comprising more than 100 business and government officials, strives towards building private-public partnerships.

The plan highlights five areas that enhance the region's ability to compete nationally for workers and business: infrastructure; education and training; quality of life; business and investment; and health, wellness and spirituality. Overseeing each area is a committee of public and private representatives who are responsible for creating and managing new projects. Ryan will complement the education committee.

For more information, contact Ryan at 412-352-3170 or mar49@psu.edu. For more on the Alcoa investment, visit http://live.psu.edu/story/42215 online.

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Last Updated February 04, 2010