About the Conference
The return of non-traditional aged students to higher education is a concern on the national stage, as is the level of enrollment in the STEM fields. The current financial crisis has forced many adults to go back to college to obtain or complete a post-secondary degree.
Simultaneously, innovations in science and technology are driving minor economic growth and have brought attention back to STEM opportunities. It is therefore more important than ever that returning adults are inspired, empowered and fully engaged in STEM.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates STEM occupations will grow 17% by 2018, whereas non-STEM occupations will only grow by 9.8% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010). SUNY has recognized this in the High Needs grant program.
Although the leaky pipeline for underrepresented minorities in STEM fields has been an important topic in academia for at least the last decade, adult learners obtaining undergraduate degrees in these fields are largely absent from the conversation.
A recommendation in Engage to Excel, a report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, is to “encourage partnerships among stakeholders to diversity pathways to STEM careers,” and includes adults among those who might need these alternative pathways. Now is the time to redefine economic challenges specifically as opportunities to involve adult learners as part of the solution-finding process to address the low number of awarded STEM degrees.
The Future of STEM: Women and Minority Adult Students will draw on the need to explore and analyze ways to examine opportunities for adults to pursue and succeed in STEM fields.
SUNY has a commitment to diversity and seeks “holistic integration of our state’s underrepresented and economically disadvantaged populations into the academic culture of higher education at all levels” (Office of the Provost, ODEI).
As The Power of SUNY Strategic Plan notes, “Study after study has linked the shortage of women and minorities in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math — to inadequate K-12 education and the persistent stereotype that math, science, and technology aren’t for girls and minorities.”
Women and underrepresented minorities bring a different background, face different challenges, and approach education in a different way. It is essential for higher education to welcome and retain this population. It is vital that we address the leaky pipeline in STEM.