Exciting times for STEM education at UTK

Joshua Rosenberg


I started at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) in the fall of 2018. I had a funny title - Assistant Professor of STEM/Science. Indeed, the official title of my position has a backslash! There was not a clear definition of my role, but that suited me fine, allowing me to explore a range of science-, technology-, and data science-related interests.

But, there have been some frustrating elements of my position, too. My colleagues and I worked in siloes - science, mathematics, educational technology. We didn’t have a clear purpose as a STEM education “team” - what we were, at least in practice: we met and planned together and shared a section of our department’s website.

Things have changed - so quickly I cannot believe it.

Last year, learning experience designer Dr. Shalaunda Reeves joined our faculty. Shalaunda turbo-boosted the envisioning process for what educational technology can and should be. I cannot imagine a better scholar to lead this.

Then, mathematics education researcher Dr. Missy Cosby signed a contract to join us for this upcoming fall. Missy is a leader in equity in STEM education who brings a wealth of expertise. Partially because Missy is a friend from graduate school, I am thrilled she’s joining us.

Concurrently, there was a search ongoing for two positions in a different department than mine — and thereby different from the STEM education team. This was in instructional design and learning, design, and technology. The process was long and winding because these positions were housed in another department while the educational technology (a closely-related if not hard to separate) program in our department was growing and moving forward.

The search resulted in Dr. Enilda Romero-Hall and Dr. Rachel Wong joining at the associate and assistant ranks, respectively.

If I could elect one person who could lead a learning, design, and technology program into the future, it would have to be Enilda. She is a leader in the field in more ways than one, pushing the wider instructional design and learning, design, and technology community to think bigger and broader.

Rachel’s work is in instructional media, educational psychology, and the learning sciences, and she also has methodological expertise, especially in meta-analyses, and she does work in schools and in informal learning settings—especially around coding and computer science. When I was in Germany, I wasn’t surprised to hear one of her recent studies cited in one of the keynote presentations.

I’d be thrilled to work with each of these faculty. Being in the position to work as a team is a tremendous opportunity that I won’t take for granted.

We have amazing faculty in research and clinical positions, too—and, I have great colleagues in tenure-track roles who deserve credit for helping us to become stronger. A shout out to Frances, Mehmet, Kristin, Yolanda, Terri, Elizabeth M., Elizabeth D., Nick, and to Lynn, a STEM education colleague faculty member now as department chair.

If there’s one area in which we could grow more, I think it would be in engineering/computer science education. Maybe I’ll have some positive news to share along those lines in the near future!

In sum, now feels a bit like an adventure: what can we do as a bit of a super team that is also working well together? I’m hopeful about our ability to answer that question.