The Sun Never Sets on STEM: A Reliable Funder Steps Up in San Diego

Founded in 1990 to honor the late Robert N. Noyce, cofounder of Intel, the Noyce Foundation has been a steady and reliable funder of STEM education, focusing on issues like mathematics instruction, informal science education, and the recruitment and development of teachers. The foundation also funded research and policy related to improving education and interest in science and math. One such effort was a $1.2 million research initiative at Oregon State University to study at what point in life young people catch the science bug.

The Noyce Foundation announced that it would officially sunset at the end of 2015, though also noted that some of the foundation's central programs would live on through spin-off efforts. The Noyce Foundation has now given a $12 million gift to the University of San Diego to advance STEM Next, a national initiative "aimed at inspiring and preparing more young people, especially girls and those from underserved areas, for careers in science, technology, engineering and math."

Ron Ottinger will serve as the director of STEM Next. Ottinger's name should be familiar to those who've followed the Noyce Foundation through the years. Ottinger served as Noyce's executive director for years. He also has ties to San Diego and served on San Diego City Schools’ Board of Education for more than a decade. Some of the issues Ottinger will help tackle here trace their roots to his days at Noyce.

STEM Next will, among other things:

  • "Strengthen STEM learning by improving teacher training.
  • Bolster STEM learning with investments in quality curriculum, in before- and after-school programs.
  • Convene the best thinkers in the private and public sectors to share best practices, pursue funding and influence how that funding is used."

Again, Noyce was engaged in many of these issues. Another example of Noyce's work was the Mott-Noyce collaboration for STEM in statewide afterschool networks, a three-year, $1.4 million endeavor focused on after-school programs in some 20 states.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that STEM Next has focused on girls, African-Americans and Latinos; it's yet another initiative that is interested in diversifying STEM. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, if women were fully represented in the engineering and computer sciences workforces, there would be about 1.2 million more engineers and 1.8 million more computer scientists. If people of color were equally represented, there would be hundreds of thousands more.