University of Central Missouri
Situated in Warrensburg, Mo., the University of Central Missouri (UCM) is a comprehensive state university that has become one of the fastest-growing public four-year institutions in Missouri, setting enrollment records each of the past five years, and attracting students from 42 states and 61 countries. Accredited by the North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), UCM has strategically positioned itself as a university dedicated to preparing graduates who will shape their world because they have experienced “Learning to a Greater Degree.” To meet this goal, faculty and staff are committed to helping the institution create a culture of service, engaged learning opportunities, future-focused academics, and a worldly perspective that will contribute to student success.
With a statewide mission in professional science and applied technology, UCM offers many STEM-related opportunities for students. Its four colleges that continue to grow their online courses and complete degree program offerings, while offering traditional classroom and blended learning opportunities. The university also develops degree programs in emerging technologies such as Cybersecurity and Computer Integrated Manufacturing that meet future needs of employers.
UCM is the only school in Missouri to operate its own public airport for aviation training, but it also offers programs such as criminal justice and safety sciences that are nationally known, in addition to STEM programs that attract students from across the globe. The greatest enrollment growth, for example, is occurring in areas such as Cybersecurity, and Computer Science, which increased by 47.2 percent in combined undergraduate and graduate student enrollment between the fall 2014 and 2015 semesters, much of this is due to interest among international students.
Degree programs have a large component of applied learning, which has always been a strength for UCM. Students learn about theory and then have structured opportunities to apply what they have learned to real world internships and business-driven projects. Programs have required internships, faculty mentors, and professional mentors. They also have advisory boards with professionals who help the university to understand and fit its educational programs to meet the needs of the workplace.
A model STEM program at UCM, The Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC) is a collaborative effort between UCM, the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Metropolitan Community Colleges, and numerous Kansas City area business partners. Students enroll in this program their junior year of high school, and complete a bachelor’s degree in four years from UCM, having gained valuable internship experience with high-tech companies, job-ready skills, and opportunities to reduce their college debt load.
Innovative Employer-Driven Pathways
The MIC model was launched in 2012 and is a direct and intentional collaboration of K-16 educators with many business partners. Going above and beyond the traditional “advisory boards” that higher education programs tend to utilize, The MIC involves business partners in the grassroots stage of program development to meet workforce demands.
The MIC programs consist of Systems Engineering, Design and Drafting, Computer Science and, most recently, Cybersecurity (to be added in 2016). Competencies for all MIC programs were developed by MIC business partners in collaboration with instructors from the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District’s Summit Technology Academy (STA), Metropolitan Community Colleges (MMC) and UCM. Using this model, partners in this initiative can ensure that program competencies are industry standard, while also helping to eliminate the skills gap and reduce training costs.
The MIC program competencies are assessed through applied, hands-on learning activities both in the classroom and during students’ three-year paid internships with partners. Assessments involve not only the course instructor but the internship supervisors of the business partners and The MIC internship coordinator. Both technical and “soft” skills are assessed.
From the original three MIC business partners that helped develop the program competencies and skills for the initial IT Systems Engineering program, The MIC now has more than 35 business partners that provide program development expertise and internship placements. MIC interns have been hired full time by some partners once they have completed their associate degrees from MMC but continue in The MIC until they receive their Bachelor of Science degree from Central Missouri.
The MIC model allows business partners to be directly involved in program development, meet workforce demands with a skilled pool of employees, and have access to this talent pool while students are still in high school. They also benefit by having the intern in their organization for a three-year experience, creating a climate of “best-fit” for not only the intern but the employer as well.
By reducing the time to degree completion, reducing the cost of a degree and eliminating the skills gap, The MIC program is innovative and truly employer-driven, providing a highly skilled workforce to meet STEM career opportunities. This ultimately will help contribute to a stronger local, state and national economy.
Key STEM Programs
The University of Central Missouri offers STEM opportunities that are embedded in classes, but many experiences extend beyond the classroom. The following are just a few examples of different STEM programs at UCM:
Nursing Students as Mentors
An example of STEM educational alignment, the UCM curriculum requires students in the Department of Nursing, who are preparing for a bachelor’s degree (BSN), to complete the Concepts of Nursing Leadership in Management and Community Health/Mental Health course. While enrolled in the course, senior nursing students who use the nursing lab at the Summit Technology Academy in Lee’s Summit -- the same facility that currently houses The MIC -- work directly with high school juniors and seniors who have an interest in the same career path. This helps UCM nursing students develop the competencies that the university expects from them to be better prepared as leaders in the professional workplace. While UCM students are developing these competencies, high school nursing students benefit from their mentorship. The UCM nursing students develop delegation skills and other abilities they will need to serve as part of a professional health care team. They develop competencies in areas such as collaboration, nursing reasoning, professional valuing and improving quality in a healthcare setting. About 30-40 students per semester participate in the course.
While UCM and STA students collaborate on learning, both receive the benefit of new technology to better prepare them for their careers. Healthcare education for UCM and STA students received a high-tech boost in 2011 when the nursing department received funding through the Caring for Missourians initiative to purchase a new SimMan 3G, which provides simulation-based education to challenge and test students' clinical and decision-making skills during realistic patient care scenarios. The simulator resembles a male human and replicates the functions of the body for the purpose of medical training. It also includes software and advanced interactive technology allowing learners to practice the emergency treatment of patients.
Construction Management Students Contribute to Renovation of City Landmark
Taking advantage of what they learned in their educational coursework, over the past three years UCM students involved in the construction management program partnered with the Warrensburg Parks and Recreation Department, city of Warrensburg, and other partners in the revitalization of Lions Lake, a popular community landmark and recreational area that was deteriorating. Under the supervision of two faculty members, the students were given the task of making improvements to Todd Hermann Trail, a 4,900-foot hiking trail that now surrounds the lake as part of the landmark’s overall renovation. Students participated in the construction of two footbridges on the trail. The main bridge on the northeast corner of the trail measures 143 feet in length, with a smaller, 24-foot-long bridge on the southwest corner of the lake.
Students began their work during the spring semester of 2013, developing a construction budget for bridges, a work schedule; work packages that contain defined, manageable pieces of the project; and investigating value engineering options. As a result of their work, the trail width was reduced and board walks for bridges were constructed off-site to reduce the overall cost of the project. Capstone construction management students also collected estimates for materials, developed labor estimates and created tool lists for students who would report to work on the project. About 100 students participated in the project, which was completed during the fall 2014, and publicly celebrated in 2015. Prefabrication of the bridges took place in UCM technology labs, and students worked with volunteers from the parks department, city, and Whiteman Air Force Base on final installation. Work on the trail not only advanced STEM education at UCM, but gave students the opportunity to provide a valuable community service.
The Maple Grove UCM Teaching Garden
The Maple Grove UCM Teaching Garden is an example of how a public university can work in collaboration with a community’s elementary school to advance education in the field of agriculture and nutrition by giving young people an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in growing and eating their own food. The project originated on UCM’s Mitchell Street Farm and involves university faculty and students in the Department of Biology and Agriculture, the Office of Student Activities, and the Warrensburg R-VI School District’s Maple Grove Elementary School.
On the east side of the farm, there are 25 raised planting beds, and additional gardening areas for items such as pumpkins, corn and grapes. Each spring and fall, Maple Grove students in grades pre-K-2 visit the farm every other week to meet with UCM students who teach them how to plant, weed, harvest and compost. During the fall, for example, students harvest and taste tomatoes, peppers sweet corn, and sweet potatoes, and they plant items plant items such as radishes, bush beans, leaf lettuces, and herbs. They also get to bring items such as pumpkins back to their classroom. Each class has its own raised bed, which was built by a local Eagle Scout, who actually designed, constructed and then managed the building crew of about 15 other scouts. Students either wash and eat the food on site or take it back to the school where the cafeteria prepares it for them. Food that is raised after classes have had the opportunity to sample it is harvested for a variety of other groups. UCM’s Campus Cupboard has received fresh vegetables for students in need, and some items are provided to the Warrensburg Food Pantry for local residents who need food assistance.
Communications and Social Media
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