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Mark Matthews

Never Too Young

Two years ago, K-12 engineering was “still in its infancy,” a National Academies panel found; the STEM acronym stood for math and science only. That’s changing, as Mary Lord reports in our cover story, “A Deeper Partnership.” Teachers and school systems are finding in engineering design a way to engage young people at various levels of ability. As they do, universities’ school outreach efforts are moving well beyond those occasions where, as Tufts’s Chris Rogers puts it, “some guy comes in, puts a piece of potassium in water, and fires ’em up about science.” Often propelled by research, the outreach turns out to be a two-way street: In some cases, faculty members find that their own teaching improves. One graduate told Lord the experience kept her in engineering. In keeping with the dogged, comprehensive reporting Prism readers have come to expect from her, Lord conducted some two dozen interviews and visited Harford County, Md., where a Towson University assistant professor (and former engineer) is revamping the elementary science curriculum and professional development for the entire district.

The recent frantic, high-profile competition to build an applied science graduate school in New York City might suggest all is well with America’s research universities. In fact, they face challenges from multiple directions, including shrinking state budgets and the prospect of cutbacks in federal research funding. Beryl Benderly’s feature, “Staying Number One,” takes a look at the growing worry that the institutions responsible for so much of the nation’s innovation could lose their global pre-eminence.

Inevitably, universities will be affected by whoever wins the White House in 2012. So, with the GOP primary season heating up, Art Pine examines what we might expect from the various Republican candidates. While higher education and science seldom figure prominently in political campaigns, a fuller picture emerges from the candidates’ records.

We hope you enjoy these and other features in this month’s Prism, and we welcome your comments.

Mark Matthews




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