The EAST Initiative President and CEO Matt Dozier visits with Change the Equation on our involvement with STEMworks and being part of the Change the Equation database.
How has being in STEMworks changed the way your program works?
Our inclusion has helped us give external validity to what we have seen with our own eyes, that the EAST model powerfully engages students in applied STEM learning. Being a part of STEMworks has also given us the responsibility to maintain the quality of our program so we can continue to be a good example of what STEM learning can look like.
What kind of impact has your program been able to make?
The EAST model was piloted in the 1995-1996 school year and has grown from one classroom teacher and 20 students to a network of more than 220 schools with nearly 300 facilitators and 25,000 students actively using STEM skills to solve problems and tackle projects in their communities. We have an alumni base of nearly 150,000 students who have participated in the program and as they move into college and the workplace, we see they are poised to be the innovative leaders our nation so desperately needs.
How has being in STEMworks connected you to Corporate America?
Over the past year we have seen an increase in corporate engagement as well. [Change the Equation members] AT&T, HP, and Verizon have continued to support the work EAST is doing as we prepare their workforce.
How is your program planning to bring itself to scale?
As the overall economy improves, it is our hope we can get back to scaling EAST at a more robust pace. We are working in our home state on some policies and legislation that would solidify a baseline of growth so we can better leverage our efforts with other areas of philanthropy. We are also looking at freshening our research and honing our storytelling so that others can better understand the capacity EAST has for transformative education in STEM areas.
Are you partnering with other organizations or programs to deepen and expand your reach and impact?
We have developed a dynamic partnership with the state’s STEM Coalition and the UTeach programs that are growing in our Universities. The most exciting partnership we have entered into in the past year is with the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in the Argenta community of North Little Rock, Arkansas. This partnership is allowing us to take our EAST model outside the traditional school day (and the classroom) and work in a community-based setting to help build community engagement and STEM capacity in students of all ages.
What’s one piece of advice for other STEM programs?
The best advice I can give is to stay focused on authentic experiences. We aren’t going to make students excited about STEM by telling them about it. They’ve got to do it. And they don’t need to do simulations or practice with hypothetical situations. They need real life experiences. The most fun I’ve ever had in STEM is when things aren’t working and I needed to figure out why. That’s what builds passion and creates the next wave of innovators.
Matt Dozier is President and CEO of the EAST Initiative. The EAST Initiative is proud to be included in STEMworks. We are especially proud of being among the first programs added and for being recognized in all four areas of the STEM fields.