Kemi Jona Testifies at Congressional Hearing on STEM Education

Kemi Jona Testifies at Congressional Hearing on STEM Education

Kemi Jona

SESP professor Kemi Jona testified before a Congressional committee in Washington, D.C., on January 9 to share his expertise on industry partnerships for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The hearing for the Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s subcommittee on research and technology focused on “Private Sector Initiatives That Engage Students in STEM.”

Jona is well qualified to tell the committee about industry partnerships for STEM. He directs the Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP) at Northwestern, which develops liaisons with schools and industry partners for innovative initiatives in STEM education.

Specifically, OSEP forges private sector partnerships to advance projects for teacher professional development, K-12 student research programs, and informal high-tech learning programs. The overall goal of OSEP is to connect K-12 science learners to the world-class scientific and educational resources of Northwestern University.

Jona’s testimony explained “Promising Models for Private Sector Engagement in STEM.” He described several effective models and best practices related to working with scientists and engineers in both academia and industry to engage students in STEM fields. 

“My key message to the committee is that what has been missing from the recent discussions about the proper role of federal STEM policy and funding is a recognition of the importance of creating robust dissemination mechanisms that support the scalability and sustainability of those high-quality STEM education programs developed with federal or private sector support,” said Jona.

Three avenues for fostering STEM
Jona’s testimony focused on three models for OSEP’s work with diverse partners that “has led to the development of innovative program models that are invigorating teachers and exciting students about STEM”: 

  • Catalyzing Industry Partnerships with Schools for Scalable and Sustainable Impact on K-12 STEM Education

For example, OSEP’s current collaboration with eight industry partners in the Chicago area includes work with Baxter International that has resulted in the Biotechnology Professional Development Series, offered through Lindblom Math and Science Academy, a Chicago public school. A symposium, workshops, lab modules and research lab experiences comprise the professional development, developed in partnership with Northwestern professor Theresa Woodruff of the Feinberg School of Medicine.

  • Illinois Pathways: A Platform for Aggregating and Disseminating Statewide STEM Education Resources and Industry Engagement

Illinois Pathways is a new and innovative State of Illinois-led STEM education initiative designed to support college and career readiness for all students. Through the Research and Development Learning Exchange, OSEP collaborates with the Illinois Science and Technology Institute to improve and expand student STEM research opportunities. OSEP offers professional development for teachers, a project showcase for high school and networking opportunities with Northwestern undergraduates and graduate students.

  • FUSE: A Modular Platform for Industry Involvement in STEAM Education

FUSE is a new kind of interest-driven learning experience to engage preteens and teens in science, technology, engineering, arts/design, and mathematics. “FUSE offers industry partners an outreach opportunity that is innovative, creative, and fun,” said Jona. Industry partners are attracted to the modular challenge development format and focus on out-of-school learning. FUSE provides the dissemination network by offering challenges to schools, libraries, and other partner organizations throughout the city. 

Lessons learned

Jona also outlined the two primary lessons OSEP has learned through such work with diverse partners:

  • The Importance of a Robust Platform

OSEP offers a platform platform that is built on staff expertise, a growing network of partnerships, and best practice models for STEM teaching and learning. This platform lowers barriers to faculty and industry participation in STEM education and creates new opportunities for engagement and collaboration in STEM education for diverse stakeholders including schools, industry, and universities. 

  • The Need to Expand the National Science Foundation Broader Impacts Model

Jona advocated for shifting the responsibility and funding for broader impacts from individual PIs to a shared responsibility between the PI and institutionally supported broader impacts and outreach offices like OSEP with the expertise to do this type of work.

OSEP’s 11 different programs focus on teacher professional development (PD); STEM curriculum development; out-of-school time STEM learning; and the design and integration of learning technologies in the K-12 classroom. This work focuses not only on the development, implementation, and evaluation of STEM education programming but also learning sciences research that helps to advance the understanding and practice of STEM teaching and learning. 

Starting at 9 a.m. (Central) on January 9, the hearing is being webcast live at

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 3/7/17