How to Interest Students in STEM CareersHow to Interest Students in STEM Careers
University of Missouri study says career days can pique student interest in pursuing science and engineering.
November 6, 2023
At a Glance
- STEM career days can be highly useful in attracting students to the field, says a University of Missouri study.
A new study at the University of Missouri — in partnership with Harvard-Smithsonian researchers — shows that colleges that host ‘STEM Career Days,’ have a career-changing effect as they interest more students in pursuing a career in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related field. The study concludes these career events not only help introduce high school students to STEM-related opportunities, but can also help increase and diversify the STEM workforce in the United States.
In an article published on the University of Missouri website, Michael Williams, an assistant professor in the MU College of Education and Human Development, analyzed a nation-wide survey conducted by Harvard University that asked nearly 16,000 college students if they attended a college-run STEM Career Day while in high school. He found that the students who attended were far more likely to have STEM-related career aspirations compared to the students who did not attend.
Williams, a faculty fellow in the MU Division of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity, stated in the article that seeing peers who succeed at STEM was a positive influence in getting students interested in STEM. He related his own experience being the only Black student in classes such as computer engineering and differential equations, during his pursuit of a Master’s degree in computer information technology.
“The United States trails a lot of global competitors in the production of STEM talent, especially in areas like sophisticated technology and quantitative methodologies,” Williams was quoted as saying in the article. “The National Science Foundation has pushed for broadening participation in STEM fields and increasing diversity for populations that have previously been excluded from STEM-related opportunities. So, I am passionate about reaching people earlier in the educational pipeline and seeing what interventions help turn interest into career aspiration.”
Williams noted in the article that the University of Missouri has several community outreach initiatives to not only expose Missouri students to STEM topics at the high school level, but also at the middle and elementary school levels.
One of these program, according to Williams, is a free STEM education program called STEM Cubs, for students in kindergarten through eighth grade that is hosted by the MU Office of Academic Access and Leadership Development, MU College of Education and Human Development, and MU College of Engineering. This program is designed to engage young students, particularly those historically underrepresented in STEM education and career fields, to hands-on STEM activities. The program helps grade-school children learn about scientific concepts and helps them build interest in science and science-based careers.
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