Georgia Tech Welcomes New CEISMC Executive Director

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Lizanne DeStefano

Georgia Tech Welcomes New CEISMC Executive Director

Alyson Powell
November 4, 2015
"Our goal is to become a one-stop shop that parents and community members and corporate partners can go to find out what’s happening on the Georgia Tech campus with regards to STEM education.” - Lizanne DeStefano, CEISMC Executive Director

The Georgia Tech center dedicated to the enhancement of STEM education in K-12 schools has a new executive director. Lizanne DeStefano joined Georgia Tech in August to lead the Institute’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC). She’ll also serve as Associate Dean in the College of Sciences as well as Professor of Psychology.

CEISMC is a partnership between Georgia Tech and educational groups, schools, corporations, and opinion leaders throughout the state of Georgia. The center’s goal is to ensure that K-12 students receive the best possible preparation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Through its many programs and projects, CEISMC strives for improved appreciation and performance in STEM, especially for students in underrepresented communities.

IPaT recently spoke with DeStefano about her new executive director role, the projects CEISMC is currently working on, and her goals for the future.

What attracted you to Georgia Tech and the executive director position at CEISMC?

“I’d had collaborations with a number of Georgia Tech faculty for several years and I was very impressed with their quality and their commitment to high-quality education and diversity. I knew that there was some fantastic faculty here. And then, I was also interested in working in an urban context and to really push the limits of what a world-class university can do to improve access and quality to STEM education in an urban context. So for that reason Georgia Tech was very exciting to me.”

How have your previous positions prepared you for your new role?

“I’ve been working in this space for almost 20 years, working with STEM faculty to design innovative education and outreach and diversity programs. So I think that work really continues here with a different group of faculty in a different context, but the idea of, how can we take the fantastic research and educational environment of Georgia Tech and really open that up to K-12 schools and community members to really get them engaged in what we do at Georgia Tech, and also to improve the pipeline of students who are thinking about Georgia Tech as a destination or thinking about STEM careers as something that they might be interested in.”

What projects are you currently working on with CEISMC?

“We have a number of very interesting projects. One of them that I think is most exciting is called GoSTEM. It’s funded through the provost’s office by the Gozuieta Foundation, and it is working with schools in Gwinnett County – mostly schools serving Latino students and families – to provide high-quality STEM experiences to them with the idea of them thinking about STEM careers and Georgia Tech as a place that they’d like to go. We’ve had amazing engagement by the teachers in those schools. We had an event a few weeks ago on campus on a Saturday where over 100 teachers from Gwinnett County Schools came to learn about effective STEM teaching and learning. We’ve also had family nights in the community where hundreds of families and students have turned up. So, I’m very excited by the idea of getting kids and families interested in STEM. We also have great partnerships, not only with the school district, but Georgia Power is also a strong partner on that. And the Latin American Association of Atlanta is a great partner, so it’s a good example of a corporate entity, a community organization, school district and the university partnering together to change the way kids are taught and learn STEM.”

Which organizations would you like to partner with in the future?

“Atlanta Public Schools is a really important partner. They’re embarking on some new initiatives in Atlanta to create more charter schools and to raise expectations for teachers and students, so we certainly want to partner with Atlanta Public Schools and to try and provide as much support as we can for their success. We’re also very interested in community partners. We are working closely with the Westside Alliance to improve and strengthen relationships on the west side of campus. We work closely with the Atlanta Science Festival. And so, I think we’re really casting a broad net for community partners who are interested in STEM education and trying to figure out what’s the best ways of working with them.”

What are your goals for the future of CEISMC?

“Our goal is to become a one-stop shop that parents and community members and corporate partners can go to find out what’s happening on the Georgia Tech campus with regards to STEM education. That doesn’t mean that we have to run all of the STEM education programs, but we should be aware of all the programs on campus and provide a really nice portal where people can find out about what’s going on at Georgia Tech. The other thing that we’re very interested in doing is working with faculty in their grant writing and in their programming to translate the world-class research that’s going on here at Tech in ways that K-12 teachers and students and families can connect with. And they can understand what the important issues are in science, what Georgia Tech is doing to address those issues, and also how they can become involved. I think sometimes there’s a big disconnect between a research university and the community, and we’re trying to really strengthen those connections, particularly with K-12 kids and families.”

How would you like to work more closely with Georgia Tech faculty?

“One goal that I would have is by this time next year if you pull any random faculty or staff member walking down the street at Georgia Tech and you ask them about CEISMC, they would at least have some idea about what CEISMC is, and maybe they would even tell you about some opportunity that they’ve had to collaborate or interact with CEISMC. So, I’m really looking to strengthen the connections between CEISMC and what goes on on the campus in general.”
Additional Media: 
GoSTEM's Program Push 2015

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