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Mason’s STEM Accelerator’s Work Is Award-Winning

Wednesday, January 21, 2015  
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By helping undergraduates succeed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses, George Mason University’s STEM Accelerator is being named one of Virginia’s “2015 Programs that Work” by the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition.

The Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition is a private nonprofit that’s dedicated to improving math and science education for Virginia students from kindergarten through college.

“We are happy that the STEM Accelerator program has been recognized to be a transformational change agent that has had a great impact in promoting the much needed awareness of STEM in the state of Virginia through innovative student programs at all levels,” says Mason mathematical sciences professor Padmanabhan Seshaiyer, who directs Mason’s STEM Accelerator program. “We are truly honored to receive this recognition.”

Mason’s STEM Accelerator program started in 2011 to keep students in the STEM fields, reduce their time to graduation and help them land jobs. Mason professors from across disciplines participate in the program.

The program includes Mason faculty from Mathematical Sciences, Undergraduate Biology Program, School of Physics, Astronomy and Computational Sciences, Forensic Sciences, AOES and Chemistry. The accelerator also works closely with the Prince William Governor’s School @ Innovation Park high school program.

The program uses innovative teaching techniques, such as “oral reviews” for calculus, which move beyond memorizing answers to helping students understand the concepts behind the problems. Boot camps and peer-to-peer tutoring through learning assistants also help students succeed in their course work.

Outreach and enrichment activities are also part of the program, including one-week summer camps called STEM Mania (for grades 3-5) and FOCUS (for middle school girls of color in grades 6-8) that engage students in a variety of STEM activities, a new Science and Engineering Fair for grades K-8, as well as a one-week residential mentorship institute for high school teachers.

Every institution is coming up with radical programs that will help create the next generation STEM workforce in order to successfully contribute to the Obama administration’s efforts to produce an additional one million STEM undergrads by the next decade.

“The STEM Accelerator program is trying to play a major role in this by advancing Mason’s position on taking the value and meaning of STEM education to a much higher level in the state of Virginia,” Seshaiyer says.

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