President Barack Obama emphasized in this year's State of the Union address that education -- especially education that promotes workforce preparation and innovation -- is our best tool for reviving the economy. He noted that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (the STEM fields) are the foundation for the jobs of the future.
Sadly, the nation has a dismal record in STEM education and is being seriously outmatched globally. We rank 21 out of 30 among industrialized nations for science literacy among 15-year-olds. Math literacy fares even worse, at number 25.
With 3,550 undergraduate science majors and a student body that reflects our increasingly diverse society, SF State has been doing for decades what the country needs to accomplish on a larger scale. We have successfully attracted thousands of promising students to the STEM fields, including increased numbers of women and members of underrepresented minority groups.
Our campus brought a delegation to Washington, D.C. this past March to share our successful models with others. Three members of the campus community who are deeply involved in this enterprise -- Provost Sue Rosser, Professor of Biology Carmen Domingo, and Associate Professor of Mathematics Eric Hsu -- described for more than 70 legislators and Capitol Hill staffers SF State programs that could be emulated by others. We were delighted that both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Lynne Woolsey participated with us in the event.
We talked about SF State's Center for Science and Math Education, a model for teacher training in the STEM fields; the Student Enrichment Office, which has mentored and prepared nearly 900 underrepresented minority students for doctoral programs in the sciences; the University's stem cell biology training program that is preparing a skilled workforce to keep California on the leading edge of stem cell research; and partnerships with the San Francisco Unified School District designed to attract more students to science fields and ensure excellence in K-12 instruction.
SF State demonstrated that this is a University committed to genuine access for all promising students, that we have brought mentorship to a new level, and that our steady commitment to innovation yields steady results. We demonstrated that yes, higher education has the capacity -- and, we believe, the obligation -- to help take America forward. Our STEM education exemplifies that commitment. Much of what you will read about in the following pages of SF State Magazine exemplifies that commitment in a range of other arenas. I hope you share my pride in what our campus is doing for the nation as a whole.
Robert A. Corrigan