Chancellor Fosters STEM Education in St. Louis...and Recruits on the Side

Chancellor Wise
Phyllis Wise, Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, speaking at the STEM Futures Forum 2012.

May 1, 2012

In a recent trip to St. Louis, Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise proved that she is not only an able spokesperson for STEM education and ambassador for the University…but a passionate recruiter as well.

On Friday, April 27, Chancellor Wise and I-STEM Associate Director Bob Coverdill represented the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illinois) campus at the STEM Futures Forum 2012, sponsored by the St. Louis Science Center (SLSC), an organization devoted to educational programs, exhibits, and community outreach in science. The Forum was held in conjunction with the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) National Championships. A not-for-profit public charity, FIRST strives to inspire young people's interest and participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) by designing programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in STEM.

STEM Futures Panel
Panelists of the STEM Futures Forum 2012, including Chancellor Wise (center).

In St. Louis primarily to participate in the Futures Forum leadership panel, Chancellor Wise addressed the importance of STEM education for the future of our nation, security, and economy; the need for the U.S. to produce a STEM-educated workforce; and the steps the University is taking to meet that need, not only on our campus, but in the state of Illinois and the nation. Following the panel discussion, during a productive question-and-answer period, Chancellor Wise shared Illinois’ efforts as a leader in reform of education for teachers in STEM topics.

In addition to serving on the panel, Chancellor Wise, along with Coverdill, met with Bert Vescolani, the President and CEO of the Science Center; Kent Schien, alumnus of Illinois’ Mechanical Science and Engineering Department, CEO of Innoventor, Inc., and a member of SLSC’s Board of Commissioners; and Jon Dudas, also an Illinois alumnus in Business, and president and CEO of FIRST; to share their vision regarding STEM education and to further cement the growing relationship between the SLSC, FIRST, and Illinois.

Following the forum, Wise and Coverdill toured the “pit” area where the teams set up their shops for the FIRST National Championship, held at the Edward Jones Dome. There they saw firsthand the scale of the event and the obvious enthusiasm of the participants. During a walk across the main FIRST Robotics competition arena, Wise and Coverdill saw ongoing events, which were quite impressive. The challenge in this year’s tournament was for competitors to design complex robots that were to shoot basketballs into hoops at various positions.

In a serendipitous chain of events, during the tour of the pit area, Wise and Coverdill visited with a team from O'Fallon, Illinois. Imagine these young competitors’ astonishment at having the Chancellor of the University of Illinois stop by! Ironically, two of the young men had already been admitted to Computer Engineering at Illinois; one had already accepted; the other has been deliberating between Illinois and another institution. One can only surmise the impact this might have on a young recruit’s decision—having the Chancellor of the University of Illinois personally trying to convince him that Illinois is by far the better choice. In addition, the Chancellor also invited him to call if he wanted a second visit to campus to help with his decision.

Author: Elizabeth Innes, Communications Specialist, I-STEM Education Initiative
More: FIRST, Policy, 2012