University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) is among the fastest growing public universities in Colorado. Fall 2015 witnessed a record enrollment of 11,299 students on-campus including over 1500 graduate students. 32% of our students are Pell Grant recipients and 31% are minorities.  With major military installations and an Olympic Training Center in our community, our student body includes more than 2000 military veterans, active military and family members and 25 U.S. Olympic athletes. UCCS offers 39 bachelor’s degrees, 20 masters degrees, and five doctoral degrees. Among these are unique STEM-related programs in exercise science, engineering education and a set of Bachelor of Innovation degrees.  UCCS was ranked tenth among Western regional public universities and eighth nationally for public undergraduate engineering by U.S. News and World Report. We are one of the largest employers in southern Colorado with over 1500 employees. The campus generates more than $450 million in annual economic impact in our county.  Our graduates contribute to the economic growth of Colorado since more than 65% of them live in Colorado.  

UCCS seeks to bridge the gap between employers and educators in STEM disciplines through a wide range of programs.  We work closely with the K-12 education community on outreach programs to support their students and provide professional development for their teachers.  Some of these programs are supported directly by industry.  The UCCS undergraduate and graduate curricula align with the interests and needs of STEM employers and our researchers work with local companies on subjects of mutual interest.  Often this leads to direct support of our students, internships, and future job opportunities. We support student research through an Undergraduate Research Academy and Mountain Lion Research Day where students and faculty gather to share their research.  Business leaders attend the Colorado Springs Undergraduate Research Forum that highlights the accomplishments of students from UCCS, Colorado College, and the United States Air Force Academy. The El Pomar Institute for Innovation and Commercialization serves as a catalyst for sharing resources and ideas necessary for creating and maintaining a supportive environment for entrepreneurship. We highlight additional campus programs below with a focus on those that impact the educational pipeline leading to STEM employment.

Innovative Employer-Driven Pathways

Working directly with employers in STEM disciplines enhances student preparation at both the K-12 and college levels to develop skills that are important in the workplace.  One example at the K-12 level is a STEM Academy Summer Camp sponsored by Northrop Grumman Corporation.  Top local high school STEM students participate in one of three STEM camp curricula (Robotics, Cyber Security, and Rockets) to develop skills such as teamwork and critical problem-solving skills.  Over 80 students participated in past camps and we are now preparing for our third annual camp.

At the university level, UCCS (through our Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department) is an active participant in NASA’s Colorado Space Grant Consortium (COSGC), a statewide cooperative venture that is part of a national NASA-funded program. The 52 Space Grant Consortia nationally support undergraduate and graduate students in the areas of research, hands-on engineering and science, and Space Grant sponsored courses.  COSGC consists of 20 higher education institutions and the Space Foundation.  They engage nearly 1,000 students each year statewide.

Biology is our largest STEM major. Biology faculty have developed, implemented and assessed the impact of course-based research experiences in K-12, two-year and four-year institutions in Southern Colorado.  Their reform efforts currently impact over 200 undergraduate students a year.  Their research has shown that even short inquiry-based lab experiences during high school improve student perceptions of science.  This work has expanded globally with the establishment of an international collaboration with Faculty at Kasetsart University in Thailand. 

All STEM majors need a solid background in Mathematics.  The UCCS Mathematics Department, recognizing the growing importance of computer based methods in engineering and education, has been modifying its curriculum to include more scientific computation. These recent changes include a sophomore level introduction to Matlab and its application to mathematical problems in science and engineering. This introduction is followed by a junior level computational methods course. In addition the Department is developing a graduate track in scientific computation with new coursework that will prepare graduate students to use computers for solving scientific and engineering problems common to research and industry.

In addition to general campus career fairs, the College of Engineering and Applied Science works with the UCCS Career Center to hold specialized STEM Career Fairs each semester. Over 45 local companies come and interview STEM students for internships, career placement, and jobs.  Students from freshman to seniors meet with prospective employers and see what outcomes, knowledge, and skills are valued in industry.  

Key STEM programs

In the previous section we emphasized programs at the department and college levels.  Here we highlight our campus efforts to improve the pipeline of students entering into STEM disciplines and eventual STEM careers.  Nurturing and retaining STEM talent is a process that must start in the K-12 environment.

UCCSTeach is a replication of the nationally recognized UTeach program for preparing high quality secondary math and science teachers.  Inquiry-based learning, early field experiences, strong content knowledge, and a focus on STEM disciplines in all classes are strengths of the UCCSTeach program. Since starting this program, UCCS has tripled our output of licensed secondary science and math teachers. We work closely with local school districts to identify and respond to the needs of the districts and, as a result, our graduates are in high demand. We recognize that our graduates will be important in maintaining a STEM pipe-line through the secondary schools and into higher education and the STEM work force.  This Fall, the College of Engineering and Applied Science started offering a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Education degree working with UCCSTeach and the College of Education.  This unique degree prepares students to become secondary school teachers who will be highly qualified in both mathematics and science while gaining a solid background in engineering and engineering disciplines.

In addition to preparing excellent new STEM secondary teachers, UCCS is involved with broadening the knowledge and skills of existing teachers who impact students at all levels. Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a national program that forms partnerships among public schools, higher education institutions and the private sector in order to encourage in-service teachers to expand upon their knowledge in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. UCCS provides quality PLTW summer training for elementary, middle school and high school teachers, ongoing training, and networking opportunities throughout the school year. The campus also provides college engineering and biology graduate credit opportunities for those middle and high school teachers who participate in engineering summer training, and undergraduate engineering and biology credit opportunities for high school students in PLTW-certified schools.

Many of our outreach efforts to the K-12 community are coordinated through our Center for STEM Education (CSTEME).  The Center works with local school districts, businesses, foundations, and granting agencies to bring high quality STEM opportunities to K-12 students and their teachers.  Careful research is conducted to assess the impact of these programs on STEM education.  For example, CSTEME workshops using
Arduino microcontrollers have demonstrated the platform’s
effectiveness in introducing middle and high school students
to basic principles in engineering design, circuit building,
programming, and device prototyping. Through the use of
high definition, cloud-based video conferencing, in
partnership with the Colorado Governor’s Office of
Information Technology, these Arduino curricula are being
made available to small, rural school districts across the
state.  In another example, CSTEME teamed with a software development company, Aviture, to hold a week-long computer game design workshop for middle and high school students.  This introduction to JAVA-based programming allowed students to develop important STEM skills such as strategic thinking, troubleshooting, and applying new ideas when challenges arise.  Of the students in the workshop. 87% reported that this increased their interest to pursue more STEM courses and to pursue a STEM career.

Communications and Social Media for Institution

Social media contact person:   Tom Hutton,   thutton@uccs.edu,   719-255-3439

UCCS Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/UCCS-243117181362/  

UCCS Twitter page:  https://twitter.com/UCCS

UCCS hashtags:  #UCCS, #GoMountainLions, #ReachHigher

Contact:   Dr. Tom Christensen,  tchriste@uccs.edu  719-255-3063

Address: 
1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
United States
Phone: 
(719) 255-8227