George Washington University President Steven Knapp emphasized the importance of collaboration between public and private institutions in making progress in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health care (STEM-H) fields during a summit in Richmond, Va., on Monday.
“We need more consistent, stronger, more strategic collaboration across all sectors,” Dr. Knapp said.
Speaking alongside a handful of education and business leaders, Dr. Knapp participated in the “STEM-H Related Best Practices” panel including Linda Rosen, president of the nonprofit Change the Equation, and Brian Fitzgerald, executive director of Business-Higher Education Forum.
The panel was part of a daylong event exploring how to implement Virginia’s landmark legislation “Preparing Virginians for the Top Jobs of the 21st Century: The Virginia Higher Education Act of 2011,” which aims in part to confer 100,000 additional college degrees, focused on STEM and health care, by 2025. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell also spoke at the event.
Dr. Knapp highlighted the GW Teachers in Industry Project as one example of a successful university-business partnership. The project, hosted by GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus, is a three-week externship where teachers learn about the work environment in various companies focused on STEM-H, then bring that knowledge back to their classrooms.
George Washington also has a number of partnerships with higher education institutions in Virginia to support STEM-H related initiatives.
Consider the agreement between the School of Nursing and Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, Dr. Knapp said. It allows nurses in and around the rural Allegheny County to get a bachelor’s or master’s degree from GW without leaving the communities they serve.
“I think that’s unusual because it’s a public-private partnership, it’s a research university partnering with a community college, and it’s an urban university partnering with a rural community to meet the needs of that community,” Dr. Knapp said.
GW also partners with the Northern Virginia Community College for its integrated information science and technology program and with Shenandoah University for a program in pharmacogenomics, or the study of pharmacology and genomics.
“All of these are examples of the kinds of things that can happen between very different kinds of institutions as long as they’re focused and very strategic,” Dr. Knapp said.
Initiatives that generate excitement around science are also important to pique the interests of young students. Dr. Knapp pointed to a developing program at School Without Walls that will use a food-based curriculum to introduce students to science topics.
“Food is one of the many ways you could have themes that would energize students around science in ways that are out of the ordinary and exciting,” Dr. Knapp said.
Beyond program partnerships, Dr. Knapp also discussed breaking down the “roadblocks” some face advancing their scientific careers—like the length of time it takes to obtain a tenure-track position or receive a substantial research grant.