Through its Faculty Forum on Outreach and Engagement, the Center for Educational Outreach (CEO) aims to build a community of practice among U-M faculty and staff by highlighting best practices in outreach from leaders across campus, informing the U-M community about ways to extend the reach of the university beyond campus and inspiring collaboration.

On February 13th, CEO held its third Faculty Forum for the 2017-2018 academic year; the community gathered for a discussion about promoting STEM education among youthNicolai Lehnert, PhD, professor of chemistry and biophysics, Natalie Bartolacci and Anna Schork of the U-M Life Sciences Institute, and Adrianne Haggins, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, shared their experiences working to engage youth in STEM.

Nicolai Lehnert. Teaching in the classroom at Michigan, Lehnert noticed a significant lack of diversity in the courses he taught; he found that the trend was prevalent at the graduate level as well. With an interest in addressing this problem and a passion for making science education more accessible and engaging, Lehnert developed D-RISE. D-RISE is a 7-week summer program that provides a handful of rising seniors from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School the opportunity to conduct research at U-M in the summer. Each student is paired with a graduate student mentor. Graduate student mentors work with students to develop a research project and provide mentorship. Through D-RISE, Lehnert seeks to promote the culture of inquiry that is foundational to science and to develop students’ analytical thinking skills. For Lehnert, the “essential paradigm of science is that you can only learn by doing” and through this immersive research experience he hopes students are able to find the subject more engaging. All of the students in the 2016 class of D-RISE were admitted to U-M, with 75% ultimately enrolling and continuing to express interest in STEM fields.

Anna Schork and Natalie Bartolacci. The Life Sciences Institute (LSI) at U-M is committed to promoting STEM education among youth. Previously a faculty member at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Roger Cone, Director of the LSI, was heavily involved with the university’s Aspirnaut program. The program seeks to engage students primarily from underserved rural communities. Building on over ten years of the program’s experience at Vanderbilt, Cone launched a successful pilot of the program at U-M last summer. This summer, six high school students will have the opportunity to broaden their understanding of basic science principles through conducting research at U-M over the course of six weeks. Students are placed within a variety of research projects based on their academic interests and curiosities. They also have the chance to interact with scientists within the LSI. 

Adrianne Haggins. In her remarks, Haggins addressed the issue of diversity in STEM workplaces and emphasized the importance of mentorship and professional development, particularly for underrepresented minority and first generation college students. Both D-RISE and Aspirnaut are examples of innovative ways to engage youth in the sciences while also addressing other components of college preparedness. Haggins highlighted as important features of each program the access to SAT/ACT preparation and guidance through the college application process students’ receive while on campus. Moreover, she emphasized the importance of giving students the opportunity to experience life at Michigan and partake in exciting social events, such as touring the Big House and networking with peers on campus in other programs. Through her work helping establishing mentoring relationships, Haggins shared how this work energizes medical students about student potential and the sciences. For additional insight, see Haggins’ article on mentorship in medicine in the Journal of the National Medical Association.

Both D-RISE and Aspirnaut will be in full swing again this summer. CEO is excited to promote the work of U-M community members who are working to inform, engage and inspire K-12 youth.