University President Presides on STEM Panel

Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., president of Saint Peter’s University, was one of the esteemed Hudson County educators to sit on a panel focused on STEM education during The Jersey City Summit on Economic Development, Placemaking & Innovation held in The Duncan Family Sky Room last month. The panel also included Glen Gabert, Ph.D., president of Hudson County Community College (HCCC); Sue Henderson, Ph.D., president of New Jersey City University (NJCU); Paul Hoffman, president and CEO of Liberty Science Center (LSC); and Marcia V. Lyles, Ph.D., superintendent of Jersey City Public Schools. Peter Daniels, EVP and system COO of CarePoint Health, moderated the panel. The panelists discussed STEM education as part of a daylong summit that focused on the economic development of Jersey City and Hudson County.

STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, has become a hot topic of discussion as its impact is seen in Hudson County and across the state of New Jersey as the demand for a STEM educated workforce grows. The summit focused on the economic growth of the county, where the local enthusiasm for STEM can be seen in gatherings, meetings and the investment in new facilities and centers.

“STEM programming helps to develop and retain a qualified work force,” said Dr. Cornacchia. “Increasing the number of STEM graduates has become critical to the future workforce and economy of the United States, particularly in the state of New Jersey. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), New Jersey ranks in the top quarter nationally for STEM employment, yet places 36th for the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded,” he added.

Dr. Cornacchia went on to stress the importance of investments in improved facilities, such as the STEM Education Center at Saint Peter’s University, which is a result of the SURGE  grant that will support high-impact teaching and learning, establish and renovate facilities and provide more resources and opportunities for student success.

Responding to the question, “How does early exposure and access to STEM impact the future pipeline of STEM talent?” the panelists shared ways they are cultivating an interest in STEM with young learners. Saint Peter’s University, as well as the other educational facilities represented on the panel, invest in young learners with programs that expose high school students to STEM careers. Saint Peter’s has a summer program for local high school students, which Assistant Professor of Biology Jeanette Wilmanski, Ph.D. ’00, is spearheading. The goal of the program is to eliminate anxiety about pursuing a STEM degree and to help the students understand what is required of STEM majors.

“It is incredibly important that students are aware of the STEM fields before they enter college so that they have the foresight to consider a STEM major,” said Dr. Cornacchia.

Hoffman of Liberty Science Center supported Dr. Cornacchia’s premise of educating at a young age. LSC offers many programs for all ages, and they work closely with schools in the local community to build partnerships and curriculum that will interest students.

“The best way to learn science is to do science. We want to create programs that make a real difference in people’s lives,” said Hoffman.

He works closely with Lyles and the Jersey City Public Schools. Lyles was mostly concerned with accessibility, saying that some students in her district do not have the same access to quality STEM education. She relies heavily on partnerships, such as the ones with LSC, HCCC, NJCU and Saint Peter’s.

“What is important about STEM education at our school is that we meet students where they are and take them where they need to go,” said Dr. Gabert, president at HCCC. He stressed that the learning institutions in Jersey City work with each other to develop programs. “Colleges in Hudson County collaborate, not compete,” he concluded.

The panel proved that the top educators in Jersey City are helping to prepare the next-generation of STEM innovators . To learn more about STEM at Saint Peter’s, click here.