Beth O’Reilly is a STEM Core Coordinator/ Math Faculty at Anne Arundel Community College

What is your Relationship with STEM Core?

I am the STEM Core Coordinator at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) in Maryland as well as an Associate Professor of Mathematics. We are in our 2nd full year of implementing the STEM Core program and are excited to continue to grow the program!

How/Why did you/AACC choose to get involved?

STEM Core was brought to the attention of Anne Arundel Community College as a result of conversations with the Assistant Dean of Mathematics at the Community College of Baltimore County, Michael Venn, who encouraged us to apply for a pair of National Science Foundation grants that would allow us to establish a STEM Core program at each of our colleges. I came on after we were awarded the grants, as our department chair was looking for a faculty member to lead this program. I choose to get involved after learning about the impacts the STEM Core program has had on students across the country. At AACC, we were already actively developing courses that would accelerate the developmental mathematics courses our students would have to complete in order to improve student success, retention, and close achievement gaps. The appeal of the STEM Core program would allow us to continue to develop and improve our existing courses while implementing a cohort model and provide a community for our STEM students. I was also very drawn to the summer internship opportunities for community college students, as all too often in the developmental mathematics classroom we get asked "Why do I need to know this?" Providing students the opportunity to apply what they have learned in their college coursework into a real-world internship setting would certainly help the students' overall professional and educational growth.

What need does the STEM Core program help fulfill for your campus?

The STEM Core program fills many needs on our campus. First, above all else, the benefits and impact of the Student Support Specialist has gone beyond anything that we could have ever imagined. Our amazing Student Support Specialist, Rochelle Harley, meets with our students weekly both one-on-one and as a group, to ensure their success in all of their coursework. Rochelle also provides support and directs students to resources available at the college to aid in any issues outside of school that they assistance with. Although the work that the Student Support Specialist does is endless, nearly all of our scholars point to how her dedication has pushed them to continue to be successful at AACC.

Second, the STEM Core program provides a more directed opportunity for students to be active within the AACC community, meet peers with similar interests and goals, work closely with our dedicated Student Support Specialist, learn from experts in their areas of interest, improve their resumes, and apply for (and hopefully obtain) internships.

Third, not too long after we established the STEM Core program at AACC, the designated STEM Internship coordinator for our college retired. The STEM Core program has allowed us to expand on the relationships established by the STEM Internship coordinator that may have otherwise been lost.

Last, the connections the STEM Core program has provided AACC to the larger Maryland community has been extensive. From our work with the other area STEM Core colleges to establishing a Summer Bridge program with area high schools to working closely with internship partners, we have been able to continue to extend the reach beyond the AACC campuses and build relationships that will continue to grow.

What benefits has the program brought to the AACC Community?

The benefits of the STEM Core program are too many to list! The STEM Core program has allowed us to work with area STEM Core community colleges to brainstorm and collaborate on growing the program at our colleges and beyond. We have met and made connections with many area businesses and organizations in an effort to both bring relevant programming and seminars to our STEM Core students as well as create internship opportunities. We are particularly grateful for the support of the Ft. Meade Alliance, as they have been a huge part of the internship success for our scholars. This past summer, AACC was able to work with Anne Arundel County Public Schools to offer a STEM Core Summer Bridge program to a group of 20 rising high school seniors where they enrolled in an AACC developmental mathematics course coupled with a mini-internship program where students completed project-based learning provided by Lockheed-Martin and NASA-Goddard.

Additionally, the STEM Core program provided the opportunity for a group of Mathematics faculty to complete Dr. Jo Boaler's How to Learn Math for Teachers course offered through Stanford University focused on developing a Math (Growth) Mindset in our students. The conversations on how to implement this mindset into our Mathematics courses at AACC has extended well past our work in Summer 2020 and continue to occur to this day.

"STEM Core means showing students that everyone is GREAT at math and just because you have a developmental mathematics requirement does NOT mean that you can't achieve your dream of a career in STEM."

What does the STEM Core mean to you?

STEM Core means supporting students where they are and helping them grow into who they want to be. STEM Core means showing students that everyone is GREAT at math and just because you have a developmental mathematics requirement does NOT mean that you can't achieve your dream of a career in STEM. STEM Core means working with students to improve their academic and professional skills, to learn about what they want to do after they leave AACC, and to provide them as many opportunities to be successful, gain hands-on experiences, and learn from experts in their potential career field. STEM Core means showing students how exciting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics is and helping them achieve their dreams!