One Funder’s Strategy to Build Undergrad STEM Majors in Their Home State

The largest foundation run by the Dow family has been cutting serious checks this year for STEM education. It seems to be driving a specific, targeted strategy to build Michigan’s STEM workforce. 

We’ve been experiencing a bit of deja vu when it comes to science education grants coming out of Michigan in the past year, namely from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. The foundation is one of the largest in Michigan and the largest family foundation associated with the wealth from Dow Chemical Company. Since the company has roots in Midland, Michigan, the foundation started by Grace Dow, wife of the company founder, gives entirely in the state, and with an emphasis on the Midland region.  

Related - The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation: Grants for Science Education

Science and education have long been a priority for the foundation, which is run by descendants of the couple, but this year the list of big grants for STEM has been notably impressive. Here’s a rundown of grants from the past year:

  • The foundation awarded $5 million to Saginaw Valley State University to help improve STEM education in regional schools.  
  • Alma College received $5 million for collaborative work with K-12 schools in the state, both in research and STEM learning. 
  • Michigan Science Teaching and Assessment Reform (MI-STAR) program, a collaborative effort led by Michigan Tech to improve curriculum and professional development in state middle schools landed $5 million. 
  • Delta College received $4 million from Dow for its work to extend education to local middle and high school students. 
  • Michigan State University received $5 million for a program called STEM Success, which helps students prepare for major in STEM fields where they may lack pre-college education. 

So what’s going on with all of these $5 million checks flying out to local colleges? Well, a big priority for the Dow foundation is improving lives in its state, and while the funder is into science in general, this is definitely an orchestrated workforce-related effort. The foundation president has said it is shooting to meet a demand for 274,000 STEM-related jobs in Michigan by the year 2018.

The other common thread here is that the grants leverage the expertise of colleges to supplement middle and high schools. The sweet spot the funder is shooting for is that gap between being a teenager and being a college student pursuing a science career. And it’s going big on the strategy, essentially showering universities with funds to close that gap. It’s been reported that at least one of these grants was prompted by an invitation from the foundation, and the foundation director says the STEM program is proactive. So it sounds like the funder has been giving nudges to nearby colleges to get on board.

Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that, while this is the biggest stream of STEM funding coming from the Dow family lately, they have a highly active education grantmaking program worth checking out, even if you’re not expecting to land $5 million. Start over at our IP profile here