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STEM Talent: Moving Beyond Traditional Boundaries

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Stephanie Pace Marshall

"A chasm is growing between the collaborative, exploratory, inquiry-based and problem-centered environments essential for nurturing STEM talent," says Stephanie Pace Marshall, president emerita of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.

Photography by Feltes

Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy president Stephanie Pace Marshall points to a widening gap between the collaborative, exploratory, inquiry-based, and problem-centered environments needed to cultivate skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and the culture and conditions of education, which are traditionally prescriptive and risk-averse. "[Innovation] is a messy, unpredictable process and it requires a learning habitat that invites experimentation and discovery, rewards invention, and encourages the often playful pursuit of often absurd questions wherever they may lead," she says.

Marshall advocates a transformation of U.S. STEM schooling and talent development to foster a more integrated generation of STEM talent, innovation, and entrepreneurial leadership. She says that this integrative design extends outside the traditional boundaries of STEM education and establishes learning in a wide variety of venues, including schools, design and production studios, museums, universities, non-governmental organizations, online pavilions, and research laboratories. "Immersing students in the real work of STEM research and inquiry, innovation, and global change leadership enables them to experience what is required to be successful in each domain," Marshall says.

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