Policy at the State Level
We have identified 5 states in which interest and commitment exist at the highest levels of government, state university systems, and other policy organizations to forge stronger connections between undergraduate STEM education and the Big Question of global sustainability: Maine, California, Colorado, Maryland, and New Mexico. Given the influence of state-level policies and regulations on public higher education, the governments (and their agencies) in these 5 states are poised to play a major role in the transformation of undergraduate STEM education.
Avenues of influence include funding priorities and the education policies they establish, especially with regard to teacher education and to STEM literacy in the general public. For example, through funding priorities, states can influence faculty recognition and rewards, promote greater articulation between two- and four-year colleges and universities, and shape priorities around the governance and infrastructure for promoting multi- and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. At the same time, it is essential to make a clear distinction between such policy objectives and the appropriate professional judgment that will be required at institutional and disciplinary level to accomplish those objectives. To ensure this, policymakers and academics need to work together and understand each other’s goals and priorities.
Mobilizing STEM Education for a Sustainable Future applied in January 2011 for funding from the NSF to work with this group of 5 states and hold two convocations at the National Academies. The work also will include research by the Office of Policy Analysis and Research at the Georgia Tech Research Institute to produce detailed information about the array of state policy vehicles available in all states to effect change in higher education. The first convocation will enable participating states to share this information, compare approaches, foster momentum already underway in the 5 initial states, and encourage other states to use their own policy tools to influence local joint STEM education and sustainability efforts.