On Jan. 30, Linda Hudson, then-president and CEO of BAE Systems, who retired just this past Saturday (Feb. 1), addressed a packed crowd of NVTC members and colleagues at The Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner. In her keynote speech, which was her last pre-retirement public appearance, she brought attention to the STEM workforce shortage and challenged the audience to engage students from middle school on up. Read our article on the event and the full text of her script here.
One of her most thought-provoking topics was the idea that the academia is “throwing the babies out with the bathwater.” Instead of promoting an inclusive environment, engaging students and recruiting them, academic institutions are still using “weed out” classes to discourage students from continuing in STEM programs. She credited Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, for promoting the idea that we should be working to keep students in the program, not cutting them out. Check out his TED talk on the subject!
Hudson also quoted Malcolm Gladwell, who explains in his most recent book, David and Goliath, why going to an elite school may actually decrease the rate of success for STEM students. According to Gladwell, “Your odds of successfully getting a math degree fall by two percentage points for every ten point increase in the average SAT score of your peers,” meaning the more competitive the school, the less likely a student is to graduate in a STEM field. Hudson and Gladwell attribute the decrease in success to a student’s discouragement when his or her scores aren’t as high as their peers’.
In order to improve the current structure, Hudson called on the audience to understand why students, and specifically minority and female students, embark on a STEM careers less often than their peers.
So, what do you think? Should elite institutions revise their policies? Do STEM students have a better chance at a less prestigious school? How else should the industry be encouraging inclusiveness in STEM education (and the STEM workforce)? Tell is in the comments below.