Together = Better: Midwest STEM leaders compare notes

Iowa State Representative Dave Jacoby speaks to STEM leaders
Iowa State Representative Dave Jacoby briefed STEM leaders from across the Midwest on the importance of STEM to Iowa’s legislature and the value of evidence being generated.

Iowa’s third annual convening of neighboring state STEM leaders and partners was a charm. Twenty-five champions representing Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Utah (honorary Midwesterners!), alongside Iowa with partners from ACT®, John Deere, Rockwell Collins and Vermeer flipped open their playbooks. Organized by the operations team of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and hosted by ACT, Inc. in Iowa City, attendees spent a day and a half in late September, cross-pollinating best practices as well as instructive pitfalls.

A profile of the University of Iowa’s STEM Innovator program on the evening before set a tone of collaborative sharing that permeated the next day’s agenda. The University of Chicago’s Michael Lach opened the morning with lively commentary on the hot-button STEM issues emerging of late. State champions then highlighted successes ranging from the establishment of corporate partnerships and higher education networks, as well as common challenges, including the integration of the arts and the professional development of STEM teachers. ACT’s Steve Triplett, a member of the STEM Council, foreshadowed some of the attention-grabbing statistics coming forth in next month’s state-by-state “Condition of STEM” report. The Education Commission of the States’ Jennifer Dounay Zinth provided a bird’s eye view of legislation driving STEM reform across the nation. Plus, Iowa’s State Representative Dave Jacoby delivered high-value commentary on generating and maintaining legislative support for STEM in the Midwest. STEM programming of John Deere, Rockwell Collins and Vermeer stirred intentions toward stronger business-education ties across states.

The exploration of a Midwest STEM Summit, a virtual community and strategic plans to interface with organizations of state legislators are the next steps. For additional information regarding the Midwest STEM Forum series, send an e-mail to

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