by Melanie Ellis, SWD Regional Outreach Coordinator
DALLAS - As the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers maneuvers its way through the current budget and funding crisis, teams across the country are addressing another crisis – finding the next generation of engineers.
Recent studies show that fewer and fewer students are graduating with engineering related degrees, specifically in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM. Engineering degrees in these fields make up about ninety percent of the Corps of Engineers workforce.
“Since the Corps of Engineers was created, it has been our mission to build and maintain the Nation’s critical infrastructure,” said Tom Hudspeth, chief, Business Management Division and Southwestern Division STEM Champion.
“It is up to us to engage students and let them know what our missions are and encourage them to explore becoming part of the engineering profession.”
And to do just that, the Corps of Engineers has placed a deliberate focus on STEM outreach efforts and the SWD is off and running.
“We have always had STEM outreach across the region but we are making a concerted effort to track and document those events so we can see what areas and age ranges we are reaching and identify areas and age ranges that we need to focus on,” Hudspeth said.
STEM points of contact have been identified at each of the four districts in SWD and they are reporting weekly engagements through the chain of command. Those STEM outreach efforts are a critical part to building the benchmark for SWD. This critical step engages students today so that when it comes time for them to make a decision about a career path they are well informed and aware of Corps missions and how they can make a difference.
In addition to the STEM engagements at the district offices the SWD office has established a STEM Project Delivery Team. “This team is made up of folks that are passionate about what the Corps does and have a love for teaching others,” Hudspeth noted. “There are a lot of folks within the office that share that enthusiasm for teaching and I hope that they will engage with this PDT and let us cover all the areas that we need to reach.”
The team is made up of representatives from each division office and who recently attended the kickoff meeting at the division headquarters in Dallas. They were able to learn about a lot of the current outreach efforts that are already going on and also share suggestions for areas for the Division to focus on.
To take the outreach efforts a step further, the SWD is drafting a formal charter to show the level of commitment to STEM outreach and to ensure everyone is working toward the same goals across the region. SWD has also aligned its efforts through the Campaign Plan at headquarters, Implementation Plan at the Division level and Operation Plan at the District level.
SWD has aligned its efforts to keep STEM outreach efforts on the front burner so that when team members are out working with students they are reminded to talk about the engineering and science and technology that is behind all the Corps does.
“You never know when you are going to talk about a subject that interests a student and possibly encourage them to explore the engineering world,” Hudspeth said. “Our overall goals are to increase STEM awareness, work together to leverage partnerships and be the Army’s leader in STEM.”
Editor’s Note: If you would like to become more involved in STEM outreach efforts or are already involved and would like to share your experience contact your local STEM coordinator.
SWDO – Melanie Ellis – 469-487-7016
SWF – Lauren Fagerholm – 817-886-1514
SWG – Katie Parks – 409-766-3880 or Rose Caballero - 409-766-3920
SWL – James McKinnie – 501-324-5096
SWT – Nancy Crenshaw – 918-669-7159