Obama recognizes CU for commitment to science, math education

CU-Boulder receives high praise; UCCS welcomed into prestigious program
By Staff

President Barack Obama today recognized the University of Colorado at Boulder for its leadership in science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — education, and welcomed the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs into the fold of American universities that have increased their commitment to shaping the next generation of American innovators.

CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano and UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak attended the White House announcement of a major initiative that expands the president's Educate to Innovate campaign, aimed at fast-tracking the nation's focus on STEM education.

At the event, DiStefano accepted an honor for CU-Boulder's comprehensive commitment to STEM education, and was among the leaders of four public research universities who were asked to deliver a letter to President Obama, pledging to address the national shortage of science and mathematics teachers.

DiStefano and 78 other university leaders signed the letter, representing 120 members of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, or APLU. In the letter, the universities commit to the association's Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI), which will strive to increase the number of new science and math teachers to more than 10,000 annually by 2015. CU-Boulder is among 39 institutions that also have pledged to at least double the number of science and math teachers graduated by 2015.

"President Obama's recognition of our efforts to educate more science and math teachers is another mark of excellence for the CU community and the state of Colorado," said CU President Bruce D. Benson. "I applaud our campuses for the recognition they have earned, and for challenging young people to go into fields that will advance our nation's position as a world leader in innovation."

Said DiStefano, "In recent years, a good number of public research universities have begun to address the issue of science and mathematics education and teacher preparation. Working through SMTI will enable our institutions to significantly impact science and mathematics education in our states and across the nation. It is a matter of economic security and global competitiveness."

At the White House event, Shockley-Zalabak represented UCCS as the Obama administration welcomed her campus and others into the latest cohort of universities to join UTeach, a renowned STEM program at the University of Texas. Both CU-Boulder and UCCS are now members of UTeach, and CU-Boulder has implemented its own program called CU Teach.

"I am honored to join with the president and leaders of education and industry in a unified goal to improve science and math education in our nation's classrooms," Shockley-Zalabak said. "This effort will create a pipeline of innovators to our universities and to positions in industry, government and defense."

The president announced public and private investments of more than $250 million to help prepare 10,000 new math and science teachers and train more than 100,000 existing teachers. The plan is part of his administration's efforts to expand its Educate to Innovate campaign to improve science and math achievement among American students over the next decade.

Obama also announced several new and innovative partnerships involving major companies, universities, foundations, nonprofit organizations and government agencies designed to attract, develop, reward and retain outstanding STEM educators.

In Colorado, CU is leading the charge with multiple STEM education programs across its campuses:

  • CU-Boulder was one of only 13 teacher education programs in the nation awarded a grant in 2007 by the National Math and Science Initiative to model its CU Teach program after UTeach. Also, the campus counts Nobel laureates and Distinguished Professors Carl Weiman and Thomas Cech among the faculty members dedicated to using innovative classroom instruction to encourage students to enter into science and math careers.
  • UCCS is a burgeoning southern Colorado hub for STEM education, partnering with high-tech, military and government entities, and creating the nation's first bachelor of innovation program.
  • The University of Colorado Denver counts STEM programs among its hallmark academic offerings, and hosts the annual STEMapalooza, a hands-on science and math expo for elementary through high school students in Colorado.