Alumna Megan Schrauben named MiSTEM Network executive director.
Husky alum Schrauben, MS Applied Science Education ‘04, is passionate about STEM education, and she's determined to help every student in Michigan have the opportunity for experiential, problem-based learning opportunities. In her new position as the executive director of the MiSTEM Network, Schrauben will lead the network's charge of advancing high-quality STEM learning experiences for students by collaborating with K-12 educators, higher education entities, businesses, industries and other community partners throughout Michigan.
Seeing Is Believing
Originally from Ovid, Michigan, Schrauben received her bachelor’s from the University of Michigan and her Masters in Applied Science Education from Michigan Tech in 2004. She credits Tech for exposing her to various applications of the science and math she was certified to teach.
“Tech had us really engaged out in the field exploring different engineering projects. It was a different way of learning than what I had mostly been taught. Since I was good at memorizing and studying, I could pass school, but I wouldn't say I actually knew how to apply everything. I really wasn't forced to apply things as much until I got to Michigan Tech. I could see that I was growing more as a learner, so I thought, ‘That's really what kids need to be doing, right?’”
Schrauben’s Michigan Tech education prepared her for her role as executive director of MiSTEM, where she hopes to promote a shift in how teachers, administrators, parents and students see contemporary education. Her mission is to inspire experiential, problem-based STEM education, as opposed to textbook or lecture-based teaching and learning.
“Textbook math alone may not help a learner fully grasp math and it’s not how the majority of our students actually learn math,” she says. “It's really about how the community in which students live provide real problems that students and teachers can then engage with.”
Continued teacher training and professional development will help expert educators grasp experiential learning opportunities they can implement into curricula. Programs like MiSTEM will also help facilitate partnerships between educators and businesses in the state, giving students the opportunity to apply their learning to problems Michigan businesses and nonprofits actually face.
Moving from a position as an integrated education consultant for the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to executive director of Mi-STEM was not an easy decision for Schrauben, who had fulfilled the transitional executive director role in the fall. She takes faith in the collaborative nature of her position. As she explains, she will be responsible for “modeling at the government level what needs to be modeled regionally and statewide.”
Her position sits within the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, which is the official source for high-quality demographic and labor market information for the state. “However, grant dollars go through MDE, so it is an intentional collaboration of the workforce and education,” she says. Schrauben sees her work as long-term and highly collaborative, with goals she feels confident she can help achieve—because after all, she’s a Husky.
For the Students
As an educator, Schrauben’s passion is providing students a chance to “participate as scientists, mathematicians and solution-eers,” she says. The way to do this is to offer students opportunities to problem solve by making innovative cross-disciplinary connections. She argues that helping students see the ways their math and science education is relevant outside the classroom better prepares them for their future endeavors.
Her chief concern is to improve education so that “school works” for all students. “The majority of students are not successful in school,” she says. The way to ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn and be successful is to move away from fact-based teaching, she adds.
While Michigan Tech is known for modeling this type of education, this practice is not widely used in all grade levels and by all educators in Michigan. She points out that changing perceptions of school and practices of schooling is essential. “As an example, our technologies are advancing so quickly we can't even prepare for the jobs that kids are going to walk into. School needs to be much more about the problem-solving and critical thinking skills that transfer across many disciplines,” she says.
Keep Your Coins, Schrauben Wants Change
A lot of things are changing for STEM education in the state of Michigan, not to mention nationwide. But according to Schrauben, change is good. She sees change as an opportunity to help all Michigan STEM stakeholders reset how they view change by seeing the bigger picture behind why change should happen—to benefit student learning and their future employment, which in turn improves Michigan’s growth.
The reset involves a shift in thinking about teaching and learning and a renewed commitment to the importance of STEM education. Amidst political turmoil surrounding education in our government and nation, Schrauben knows she’s in for a fight—but it’s a battle she’s willing to wage for the sake of essential change for Michigan's students and future leaders.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.