GVSU joins MiSTEM Network

GVL / Courtesy - Mitch Ranger

GVL / Courtesy - Mitch Ranger

Devin Dely

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Grand Valley State University will join a new statewide initiative to deepen the level at which Michigan engages in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The brand new MiSTEM Network recently received nearly $1.3 million in state funding, a portion of the $100 million for workforce development in Michigan that Gov. Rick Snyder revealed last week. GVSU’s Regional Math and Science Center (RMSC) will receive $110,000 of that state funding, propelling the center to become a force in STEM educational development in the West Michigan region as one of the 16 MiSTEM Networks being implemented across the state.

“MiSTEM is a brand new initiative,” said Kristofer Pachla, director of the RMSC. “It was really formed with the creation of last year’s fiscal budget. Before that, it had been talked about at the state level, but nothing had been really solidified.”

The new network is meant to help students, but it’s also aimed at changing the larger culture. According to Pachla, Michigan’s workforce will have a continually increasing need for individuals trained in STEM disciplines in the near future. 

“There are a lot of jobs that are going to be showing up in Michigan in the next 10 years or so that are really high tech,” he said. “We’re looking at finding ways to engage students in opportunities and increase access to STEM education. I think it’s really important to note that Grand Valley has a lot of good internship opportunities and job connections in all their STEM fields, too.”

The creation of the MiSTEM Network is just the latest in a series of moves that seem to be making GVSU a more STEM-focused school. The fall 2018 semester will also mark the beginning of another new program, Retaining and Inspiring students in Science and Engineering (RISE), aimed at helping low-income freshmen looking to pursue STEM degrees. Because the RMSC will be one of the better-funded branches of this new network, GVSU will perhaps have greater potential to impact STEM education across the state than some of the other networks. 

“I think this has a huge opportunity to engage students, teachers and everyone in the region and promote equity in STEM,” Pachla said. “We’re going to use those dollars to support the staff members we’ll be hiring. We’ll be hiring two staff members to work on the MiSTEM Network, and each of those staff will be focused on different components.”

Pachla said one of the staff members will be focused on the K-12 side, while the other will be looking at connecting various businesses to education. This also includes looking at what it means to be a STEM culture.

“The money will also go to start-up and travel costs,” Pachla said. “It is a statewide network, and we’ll have to make sure we have opportunities to travel and really collaborate on that level.” 

There is still a lot that must be done before this project can be fully realized. Pachla, however, is optimistic about how long it will take to come to fruition. 

“We’re still in the strategic planning stage where we’re trying to figure out what the needs of the region are,” he said. “We anticipate that the network will be up and running no later than October 1st of this year, but realistically, it’ll probably be much earlier than that.”