Over the almost five-year course of Iowa's nationally acclaimed STEM initiative, some have marveled at how much gets done by the operations center housed at the University of Northern Iowa. Seemingly incessant meetings, conferences, reports, grant proposals, communications, studies and other duties emanate from the Cedar Valley to steer our ambitious STEM Council agenda across the state.
Often, the operations team -- Jeff, Kari, Carrie, Angel and Becky credit their "secret weapon" in moving things forward so effectively. It is a small, yet powerful, force of student assistants who help generate the output of the STEM Council’s operations center — Madison Flesch, a sophomore chemistry major with a nanoscience and nanotechnology minor from Waukee; Cassara Higgins, a senior chemistry and physics major from Brandon; Ansley O’Brien, a sophomore public relations and marketing major from Cedar Rapids; and Anna Rasmussen, a freshman mathematics major with a statistics minor from Johnston.
Each student has her own respective portfolio of projects to concentrate upon; however, each one is at the ready to shift into high gear if another priority project springs up. It is a win-win scenario as these students significantly expand the capacity of the operations center, and the experience they are getting as part of the STEM Council team will be invaluable in their future career endeavors.
The mark they are making, especially regarding their work on the STEM Scale-Up Program, the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships Program, database management, studies, surveys and other aspects of the operation are making an impact on the lives of many thousands of learners across Iowa. It is so often the case that "behind the scenes" work is the most important yet the least heralded. We are taking this opportunity to acknowledge their contributions (and the contributions of all the student assistants who came before them) amidst their studies and other commitments as students at the University of Northern Iowa.