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Roxbury Community College's partnerships spark new opportunities in STEM education

4/19/2011, 11:49 p.m.

Several new partnerships with prominent colleges and universities, both locally and nationwide, promise to propel Roxbury Community College’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program to the forefront of STEM education in Massachusetts.

One exciting development is that RCC will partner with UMass Boston, the Boston Public Schools and Northeastern University in the Boston Energy in Science Teaching (BEST) Project. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, BEST would create a growing community of STEM higher education faculty members who work side-by-side with K-12 teachers in science reform. Students from all backgrounds would have the opportunity to remain in the science pipeline established and supported by the Boston Science Partnership.

Although the goals of the BEST Project are aimed primarily at public school teachers and college faculty, they would also increase student interest and achievement in science in the intermediate grades. For public school teachers, one BEST goal is to better understand how increasing teacher knowledge increases student achievement. Another is to increase teacher understanding of science and, therefore, teacher efficiency and effectiveness at teaching existing curricula.

A final BEST goal is related to higher education and seeks to engage higher education faculty in a deep discussion of cross-disciplinary research and science education in order to spark new research directions and center institutional change in STEM education.

Another program with a broad range of possibilities for RCC students is the Massachusetts Homeland Security-STEM Bridge Program, funded through the Department of Homeland Security.

The program is designed to support education and training for qualified community college students in order to develop the next generation of leaders in Homeland Security/STEM research and development. The program offers free tuition, a stipend, paid research internships for students and paid research experience for teachers.

Program goals for RCC include adapting the College’s existing STEM program to provide exposure, knowledge and experience for its underrepresented students who are interested in homeland security. Student success is a large part of the program, and additional goals include improving the quality of STEM faculty, raising student achievement in STEM, and increasing the number of underrepresented students who succeed in higher-level courses and who are admitted to, retained in and who complete university Homeland Security-STEM degree programs.  

In order to achieve this, there are goals that ensure students will develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the field and to help students maintain their interest and resolve.

RCC is the only community college named in a National Science Foundation Proposal that joins the College with UMass Boston, UC Berkeley, Harvard University, SUNY Buffalo, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, UC Santa Cruz and Wellesley College. If funded, the Project would increase the number of students taking geosciences, enhance the quality of instruction and provide greater coherence of geosciences core concepts that are taught in programs across the nation.

For its part, Roxbury Community College would pilot a general sciences course and an environmental sciences course that incorporate online geosciences modules at the College.

The College’s initiatives in the area of STEM education have not gone unnoticed. In December, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Education Consortium (MLSEC), a new partnership between industry and education, awarded the College with two gold endorsements.

The first endorsement recognized RCC’s outstanding Biotech Associate Degree Program and its Biotech Certificate Program. The second endorsement was in recognition of the College’s excellent Biotech Internship Program.