Industry-Sponsored Research Week

Bayer helps launch Cal State STEM education program for under-represented students

By David Schwartz
Published: February 9th, 2021

A detailed article on the Bayer-Cal State STEM education partnership appears in the January issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here. 

The Bayer USA Foundation has invested more than $1 million to help grow the Institute for STEM Education at California State University East Bay. The institute focuses on four main areas: early STEM education; extended learning programs including afterschool and family activities; professional training for educators; and supporting students in their transitions from high school to college and then from college to career.

The Cal State investment is just the latest support from Bayer in the Bay Area for initiatives designed to help create career pathways in STEM for students who are traditionally under-represented in these fields. “Bayer is always looking for ways to improve STEM education,” says Jennifer Cogley, Bayer’s deputy director of community relations. “CSU East Bay came forward with a proposal that would have a meaningful impact on under-represented students.”

The Bayer funding is part of an ongoing evolution at the institute. “Back in 2011-12, a group of faculty members formed the institute as a collaboration for college science and education,” recalls its Executive Director Bruce Simon. “We had already been working together on lots of education initiatives on campus and off. My predecessor reached out, made a connection with Bayer, and they were the first to support us. They gave us quite a significant grant the first year that allowed the institution to hire staff to work on projects and with faculty on campus.”

Jason Stingley, PhD, dean of the university’s College of Science, agrees that a lot of good things were already happening on campus in STEM education and career development, “but it was very siloed. We had a lot of faculty-led projects, some for support of middle school science teachers, and others for job development. The gift brought all this together and gave us coherence.”

Simon notes that the institute had previously maintained a fairly narrow focus on workforce development. “Bayer had already done a significant amount of research on what led people to choose a STEM career,” he says. Their research suggested that young women, in particular, would choose a STEM pathway — or not — when in middle school, “so you have to start working with younger children.” Accordingly, one of the first programs was a STEM Career Day for high schoolers on Bayer’s Berkeley campus, with students engaging with professionals to learn first-hand about a range of STEM jobs and to learn about the personal pathways the successful individuals followed from school to career.

Increasing the number of graduates in STEM fields, notes Cogley, is particularly important in California, where jobs in the sciences outpace graduates from four-year colleges within the state. “In advancing STEM education, our team at Bayer in Berkeley focuses on access for under-represented populations, and this is a key driver for Bayer nationally as well,” she notes. “With this in mind, Cal State East Bay became a very good choice of partner because it is the most diverse public university campus in the U.S.”

Bayer’s goal, she continues, was to have a scalable impact, which is where the training of teachers came in — a key part of the institute’s broadened mission. “By focusing on the training of teachers — which is the focus of the institute as it advances the development of STEM educators — we can have a significant impact on STEM education at the K-12 level,” she explains. “Sparking a student to pursue STEM starts early and must be fostered in primary and secondary schools to set the student on the path toward a STEM career.”

“The San Francisco Bay area has an extremely high cost of living, and a booming tech area,” adds Stingley. “These companies struggle with hiring talent. Our graduates are already here; they have a place to live and a support structure to enable them to stay.”

It is also an extremely diverse region, he continues, which is reflected in the students who come to campus. “These employers are quite eager now; they recognize [the importance of diversity] and they can find it in their back yard,” he says.

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Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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