Breadcrumbs

President Mark B. Rosenberg PCAST Presentation Transcript


December 3, 2012

On November 30, 2012, President Mark B. Rosenberg made a presentation to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) on STEM education, highlighting FIU's successes in educating STEM graduates, particularly underrepresented minorities. Below is a transcript of President Rosenberg's presentation. 

Mark B. Rosenberg: Thank you for inviting FIU to be here to tell our story. I first want to thank our Congressman-elect Joe Garcia for being here. He was recently elected, he defeated one of my former students and current Congressman David Rivera, but I'm really thrilled to be able to work with our new Congressman. 

I want to begin with a quick story and then talk a little bit about who we are, talk about therecommendations that the council has presented and how we've attempted to implement them, present a quick case study and then go into some suggestions. In many ways, if we're going to talk about changing the equations, we're one of the changers. We're one of the institutions and we represent a broad range of institutions that are going to have to do a lot better at changing the equation if we're to exceed our STEM goals. 

Okay. It's Thanksgiving. The night before Thanksgiving. You all have been on college campuses. You know
how deserted they are. And I was invited that night before Thanksgiving to a Thanksgiving celebration of students that was to be held at one of our buildings. It's a classic 1970 early brutalist concrete block facility. Truthfully, I didn't know what to expect. I walked into what had been I thought our physics learning center. That had been turned into a party central for Thanksgiving. Complete with turkey, the dressing, and about 65 students who were sitting around individual tables that had been grouped together in one long table. And I was shocked. I didn't expect to see this many students together anywhere the night before Thanksgiving on a college campus, much less students from physics. And they did admit there were a few chemists, chemistry students in the group. I later found out that this physics, learning center is a place not only where modeling takes place, where students love to come, but that they stay there all night and we can't get them out. And I think that there's a lesson there for us in terms of how we need to, if you will, change the equation.

 FIU opened in 1972. We're a public university. We are the largest majority/minority university in the United States. In many ways our geography, we're located in Miami, is our destiny. Currently two FIU grads are in the U.S. Congress, both Hispanics, minorities. And FIU faculty member is a current U.S. senator eight state legislators, minorities, graduated from our universities. If we get it right, we will help them to change the equation.

Our demographic is the shape of things to come for public universities. We're the first in the United States in awarding STEM degrees to Hispanics. We've awarded 51,000 degrees to underrepresented minorities during the last decade. 84 percent of all FIU degrees are awarded to minorities. And last year we had 1683 STEM graduates overall. Our demographic, the demographic that we have, truthfully, is the shape of things to come. And so in the same way that geography is destiny, I would submit to you that demography is destiny and we need to pay attention to that. And clearly that's being done.

The Excelencia in Education report points out that the lion's share of Hispanic degrees are coming from 25 urban institutions, most of them are Hispanic-serving institutions. Let's look a little bit inside the numbers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that Hispanics will increase from 15 to 19 percent of the civilian labor force by 2020. And stated another way, in terms of demography as destiny, within 20 years
75 percent of newborn children will be from underrepresented minority groups. Most will be Hispanic.

Let's take a moment and look at the recommendations and how we've addressed them at FIU. And we have two together that you're familiar with. Catalyzed adoption of empirically validated teaching practices and replace standard laboratory courses with discovery-based research courses. We've implemented deep reform within our classes, and let me say that the truth of the matter is it's not about the brilliance of the administrator or the president of the moment, the truth is the deep reform is a function of the faculty or faculty coming to grips with a need to change. And I'm going to illustrate that.

We're using discovery-based labs now in chemistry, physics, we've established a mastery math laboratory. We are changing how we construct our classrooms. When I first became president, I insisted -- this is just three years ago, I insisted we build another large lecture hall and our Dean of Arts and Sciences Ken Furton said we can't do that we don't need lecture halls anymore we need discovery laboratories. And so we made that change. We knew because we empirically validated and we looked at the results that we were having a great deal of success.

What is that success? Let's look at physics it's really an amazing data point in 2002 we have 36 majors in 2011 we have 134 including 83 Hispanics and I'm going to introduce you to one soon.

How did we do this? Through modeling instruction, through aggressive use of learning assistants. And our learning assistants in particular are having a huge multiplier effect. We kind of talked about learning assistants in another way when we dealt with MOOC’s, but I want to recommend the learning assistant 
approach, because essentially it's great peer based learning. It creates a change dynamic among the students that is going to be very critical in the long term for this country. 

Launch a mathematics education to address the math preparation gap.Again, we've doubled down on this. This semester we opened a mastery math lab featuring 202 computers, 29 learning assistants and eight faculty. So we're trying to blend the high tech with the high touch. Students truthfully learn best from other
students. And what we've been able to do with the learning assistants is allow them to move around the math mastery lab and right now we've set an aggressive goal to have by 2015 roughly 73 percent at least 73 percent of our students passing college algebra. That compares last year to about 33 percent. Clearly that's not acceptable. Clearly we recognize failure finally and the most important part of that is that our faculty themselves are beginning to understand how as a public university our fiduciary to the public has to be much different if we're going to be sustainable across the midterm. 

We have also established a very robust partnership with the Miami Dade County Public Schools. As I listen to Linda, I'm thinking about how we can ensure that the techniques and the technologies that will be infused into the primary and secondary curriculum, continue in a seamless manner right through the university. And that is a major challenge. Because as you know most of our delivery systems don't talk to each other.

In our case we have established a partnership that is unique with the Miami Dade County Public Schools. They just won the Broad Award; the fourth largest school district in the United States, roughly 350,000 students. We meet on a quarterly basis, the Superintendent, his Deputy Superintendents, his operators, number of principals, with my entire group of leadership Vice Presidents and Deans and Operators. We have ten task groups, and we are very focused on student achievement. This hasn't been done before best 
we can tell. My idea of interfacing with the school system when I was Provost at FIU was to task that to our Dean of Education. The truth of the matter is if we were going to have systemic change if we were going to change the equation we would have to do things differently. Partnership strategies as well.

Obviously we've benefited from a very strong partnership with the Department of Energy. I won't go through that in detail. I'm going to come back to it in a few minutes left I have for recommendations but I 

would like to share with you if I could a video. I think it's important that our students speak to this issue, and we have a graduate student who really is a poster child for our ability to, if you will, change this equation. She's Idaykis Rodriguez, native of Cuba and most recently she was one of 550 students who were
selected to attend the Lynndau Nobel Laureate meetings. It's a quick video let's let it speak.

VIDEO:
>> In high school I went to Felix Varela where I met my physics teacher Mr. David Jones. He was so passionate about the subject and teaching it that it made me feel passionate about something, too. It just so happened to be physics.
>> Jones received training from FIU's physics research group, one of the interdisciplinary teams recognized for transformtry models for teach and learning in our schools graduated top of her class chose to attend FIU soon after arriving she met Laird Kramer.
>> They met me and meeting Kramer and engaging in the community he built for the physics majors was a great opportunity to me.
>> The physics learning center is central to this feeling of
community.
>> It's a space that we have. It's managed by the students and used by the students. And it's a place where we can study, hang out, and love being there. And it becomes a hub for what we can do and communicate with each other.
>> Rodriguez flourished as an undergraduate. She worked with Dennis Higginbottom. The work I did with him was inspiring. I got to work with other scientists working on critical physics that's happening at the time. And being part of the project made me realize what a strong community the physics community has.
>> Not only has she working with some of the best scientists in the world she was presenting papers at international conferences, the experiences were exhilarating yet Rodriguez saw few people who looked or sounded like her.
>> I asked myself why there weren't more people Hispanic physicists or scientists for that matter. Working together with
the physics education group here made me realize that I could ask those questions particularly in research. And decided to not only give back by teaching and targeting those minority groups like me, but asking the question as to why.
>> She's now joined the university physics education research group, the same place where her high school teacher learned his instructional techniques Rodriguez is passionate about advancing the commitment of building models of effective STEM instruction.
>> Hopefully within five years maybe possibly be at a university continuing my research and teaching physics and helping students like minority students like myself reach their goals.

So the question obviously presents itself where do we go. And the basic point I want to make is that if we don't get underrepresented minorities involved, we're not going to get where we need to get. There's a variety of different ways to do that. There are a number of initiatives. Clearly it's very important to get partnerships developed, particularly with industry. And I'm thinking about in particular a partnership that we have that I want to mention that has really helped us to advance, and that is JP Morgan Chase has donated 1 million dollars to the university to develop a community school with Miami Senior Northwestern that's enabled us to radically expand our presence in that school to offer dual enrollment, to get parents involved and the first year result is we've seen a quadrupling of the students, minority students who are now at FIU. I think we have to do a much better job at partnerships.

As it relates to the federal government, I'm a product of a National Defense Education Act I would bet a number of you are as well. The national defense education act was initially about mathematics education, and then it morphed into area studies because we didn't have language in area study specialists I'd like to see a new National Defense Education Act that would create a network of STEM transformation institutes; and  offer GI bill-like support for STEM teachers. That would incentivize K through 12 community college and university collaboration and that at the same time would break the silos that we see in the trenches. Because I can tell you that we've got a dozen and dozens of pathway pipeline programs. Each of which is
funded by a different federal agency and thank you. I think that's very important. But the end result is that the whole isn't the greater of the sum of the parts, and I see these STEM transformation institutes that could come out of a new national defense education act that would help to catalyze movement across the variety of delivery systems promote additional teachers, promote additional results-based research on new teaching techniques, get students involved. Keep them involved, across the spectrum from K through 12 through the university into graduate school and then finally either into the public sector or into industry.

So Mr. Chair, the rubber hits the road where I sit at FIU and a lot of other urban serving universities that I'm representing here today. We get it and we appreciate the time you're giving us to make the case.