University's STEM research center gets new director on 10th anniversary

Jul 13, 2017

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has appointed a new director for its center focused on making science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education more attainable for students.

Dr. Chandra Orrill will now head the Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in STEM Education. Orrill formerly worked as the center's interim administrative director, a position that focuses on grants and operations.

Dr. Chandra Orrill's math education research has attracted more than $6 million in grant funding, according to university officials. She was recently awarded a $738,337 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop strategies that help teachers make sense of compelling mathematical structures and patterns, officials said.

“We talk all the time about the importance of STEM to the future of the U.S. and world economy, yet we continue to teach and structure schools in ways that use mathematics courses as gatekeepers,” said Orrill via news release.

“If a student cannot pass calculus, there are very few options for them in STEM careers. If a student can’t pass algebra, they are often completely locked out of college. Democratizing access to math and science is, at its core, a civil rights issue for the 21st century,” she continued.

Other major Kaput Center faculty grants include $778,770 from the NSF to fund Dr. Shakhnoza Kayumova's work in helping English language learners succeed at science, and helping their teachers better support them; and a $457,755 NSF grant that supports Dr. Walter Stroup's work in using technology to help students collaborate around complex mathematical tasks. Additionally, Dr. Stephen Witzig heads a program aimed at creating master teachers in STEM.

Besides the research being conducted, the center runs the annual STEM4Girls day which brings 120 girls between ages 10 and 15 to campus to engage in hands-on STEM workshops and hear talks by women who are STEM professionals. The next STEM4Girls event is planned for March.

The center also runs a speaker series that brings STEM Education researchers from around the country to campus to share their research.

The Kaput Center was formerly directed by Dr. Stephen Hegedus. He resigned from the position in June 2014. The center has since been run by Chair Dr. Walter Stroup, Interim Academic Director Dr. Beste Güçler, and Orrill.

The Kaput Center was established in 2007. The center is named for James Kaput, the late UMass Dartmouth professor who dedicated his life and research to “democratizing math education.”

The Kaput Center's mission is to reach the widest possible audience and engage it in STEM content in new ways. To do this, the center focuses on learning design, teacher quality, and education policy.

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