More than 2,000 business, government, and education leaders gathered in Austin, Texas, to discuss the state of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in the United States as part of the U.S. News STEM Solutions conference in June. We're pleased to be able to offer a few highlights (above) for those who weren't able to attend.
The theme for the conference was "Teach. Hire. Inspire." Speakers included neuroscientist (and actress) Mayim Bialik, science journalist and author David Ewing Duncan, National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle, and Surya Kant, president of the IT consulting firm Tata Consulting Services.
"This is the absolutely perfect time to be talking about STEM education," explained Barbara Bolin, executive director of the Michigan STEM partnership. "Because STEM education is not simply an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM education is a new way of educating people."
Experts estimate that fewer than 40 percent of students who major in science, technology, engineering, or math actually graduate with a degree in those fields. Instead, they switch majors after a semester or two, with many of them later reporting feeling isolated, discouraged, or overwhelmed by the course requirements.
"I found out I wasn't as prepared as I should be," Mallory Hytes Hagan told a panel during the conference. "I hit that first chem lab and thought, 'Whoa. What's going on?'"
Hagan spent a year at Auburn University as a biomedical science major, but transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology to study cosmetics and fragrance marketing instead and went on to be crowned Miss America 2013. She's had a successful career, but still, she says, if she had been shown how science could apply to her everyday life, she might have remained a STEM major.
"If I'd have known I could have made my own lipstick instead of just wearing it I might have had a different path," she added.
Lylah M. Alphonse is the Managing Editor of Special Reports for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or email her at LAlphonse@usnews.com.