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Stephanie Couch, Bayer Interim Director of the Center for STEM Education

Director named for interdisciplinary STEM education center at CSUEB

  • October 6, 2011

Plans for an interdisciplinary center focusing on best practices in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education at Cal State East Bay have moved another step forward, with Stephanie Couch beginning her appointment as the Bayer Interim Director of CSUEB’s Center for STEM Education.

In March, the Bayer USA Foundation announced a $540,000 grant to support the creation of the center on the Hayward campus and establish the directorship position. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of the international Bayer Corp., which has offices in Berkeley, Emeryville and San Francisco.

“The Center for STEM Education is one example of how industry partners such as Bayer, through their valued support, are assisting the University in meeting its mission,” said Leroy Morishita, interim president of CSUEB.

“Today, Cal State East Bay is increasingly associated with workforce development, access to excellence and opportunity, and educational innovation.  We are extremely pleased to have the support from Bayer which has made it possible to hire the Center’s Director and expand on this important work,” he said.

“We are delighted to welcome an educational leader of the caliber of Stephanie Couch,” said Bayer Senior Vice President Joerg Heidrich, the global head of product supply in biotech and the Berkeley site head for Bayer HealthCare.

Most recently, Couch served as deputy director of Policy, Programs and Research at the California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet), where she helped establish a non-profit organization focused on transforming STEM education statewide.

Her experience in education policy, her work with technology partnerships and her background in STEM advocacy are a good fit for the university, according to James Houpis, CSUEB’s provost and vice president of academic affairs.

“She has experience connecting academic programs with supporters and with the community, both locally and across the state of California,” Houpis said. “And she knows how important STEM is for student success and how it can benefit students in every major.”

Couch said she is excited to work at an institution already rich in STEM education. “The campus is really a treasure trove, you can look all over and see what faculty and students are already doing in STEM, and I hope in the center we can make that more visible,” she said.

The Center for STEM Education at CSUEB will coordinate existing programs in STEM education, many of which are collaborations between faculty in more than one college, and help develop new projects and research. Plans call for the center to eventually be housed in a proposed new STEM Education building on the east side of the Hayward campus.

As director, Couch will help establish and maintain ties with regional school districts, with special focus on underserved students, and develop new partnerships with local industry, community, and philanthropic organizations. She said her first goal is to work with faculty to develop a detailed framework and strategic plan for the center’s operations.

“STEM is a good organizing framework for all the different disciplines to talk about innovative approaches to teaching and learning that build on what we know about effective practices and pedagogy,” she said. Because CSUEB aims to incorporate STEM skills across the curriculum, she said she will also be looking for the contributions of faculty, staff and students outside the STEM fields.

“We need everyone to be a part of this and not have an exclusive definition of STEM and what we hope to do in the center,” she said.

Bayer executives and CSUEB administrators have noted that their partnership for this center exemplifies both the mission of the Bayer USA Foundation and the university’s commitment to regional stewardship and workforce development.

Economic and academic reports show that STEM skills like quantitative reasoning, the scientific method and technological familiarity are critical ones for 21st century jobs, particularly in this region. “This center will bring opportunities to all our citizens and strengthen the Bay Area’s economic future,” Heidrich said.

CSUEB’s STEM initiative will increase STEM literacy for all majors, improve training for K-12 math and science teachers, and create partnerships with regional businesses, like Bayer, to build a pipeline of students engaged in STEM subjects and prepared for success in the workforce.

“Bayer’s mission is ‘Science for a Better Life,’” Heidrich added. “Our intention in helping to found this new center is to support the university’s ambition to serve as the focal point of regional efforts to deliver quality science education. We look forward to working actively with Ms. Couch to build a new coalition of educators, business leaders, community organizations, and social investors to restore California’s leadership in science education.”

The Hearst Foundation and Wareham Development Corp. have also made contributions to support the center’s development. Rich Robbins, president of Wareham Development, said that the company sees education as vital to the maintaining the success of the regional economy. “We have serious work to do that cannot wait. Wareham Development is committed to STEM education as one way to mitigate the enormous challenges facing the Bay Area and our country, not only for the sake of our young people but for the future of the oldest and largest innovation cluster in the world,” he said.

Couch also has experience working with technology and education. She served from 2007 to 2010 as the director of the K-20 CA Education Technology Collaborative in Butte-Glenn Community College District, assisting with technology projects in partnership with the California Virtual Campus. She said that experience will help her provide insight in incorporating emerging technology into CSUEB’s STEM education projects and the proposed STEM education building.

“I want Cal State East Bay to become known as a leader among educators and technology companies, so we can inform companies how to meet the needs not just of business but also of educators and students,” she said.

Couch is earning her doctorate in education from UC Santa Barbara, where she also earned a master’s degree in Learning, Culture and Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree from UC Davis.

About California State University, East Bay

California State University, East Bay is the San Francisco East Bay Area's high-access public university of choice. CSUEB serves the region with campuses in Hayward and Concord, a professional development center in Oakland, and an innovative online campus. With an enrollment of almost 13,000, the University offers a nationally recognized freshman year experience, award-winning curriculum, personalized instruction, and expert faculty. Students choose from among more than 100 professionally focused fields of study for which the University confers bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as an Ed.D. in education. Named a "Best in the West" college, as well as a Best Business School, by the influential Princeton Review, Cal State East Bay is among the region's foremost producers of teachers, business professionals and entrepreneurs, public administrators, health professionals, literary and performing artists, and science and math graduates.

About Bayer USA Foundation

The Bayer USA Foundation is an endowed 501(c)(3) entity and is the primary source of Bayer Corporation’s philanthropy in the United States.  With a programmatic focus on the environment and sustainability; education and workforce development; arts and culture; and health and human services, the foundation creates and supports organizations that improve communities in which Bayer employees live and work, as well as society at large.  The Bayer USA Foundation is one of three Bayer foundations worldwide, including the Bayer Science & Education Foundation and the Bayer Cares Foundation.

About Bayer Corporation

Bayer Corporation, headquartered in Pittsburgh, is a subsidiary of Bayer AG, an international health care, nutrition and high-tech materials group based in Leverkusen, Germany. The company’s products and services are designed to benefit people and improve their quality of life.  The Corporation is committed to the principles of sustainable development and to its role as a socially and ethically responsible corporate citizen. Economy, ecology and social responsibility are corporate policy objectives of equal rank. In North America, Bayer had 2010 net sales of EUR 8,228 million ($10,861 million) and employed 16,400 at year-end. For more information, go to www.bayerus.com.

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