Phoenix College (PC) will host its third annual STEAM Days Nov. 9-10, with virtual, and on-campus, experiences. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) is an educational approach that integrates art/design, and humanities, with STEM. Sponsored by the College’s STEAM Committee, the two-day event showcases paths to interdisciplinary careers in the 21st Century.
Education is no stranger to acronyms promising revolutionary outcomes for students and the workforce. As automation continues to restructure careers and the economy, faculty and administrators are finding ways to broaden students’ skills. Part of the challenge is ensuring this response remains relevant to the needs of employers. Students who expand their credentials within the STEAM framework build analytical, and creative, problem-solving skills that will serve them throughout life.
STEAM Days are an opportunity for students, and community members, to hear from passionate instructors, field professionals, and outreach experts who work at PC, and throughout Arizona. Virtual presentations will discuss career paths, scholarships, course offerings, and opportunities for Work-Based Experiences (WBE). The event will be punctuated by an on-campus Resource Fair, where attendees can meet leaders from the local STEAM movement.
STEAM vs. STEM
“One of the most common inquiries the Committee receives comes not from students, but from parents. They’ve heard both terms, in passing, for years, and want to better understand how they’re related,” said Dr. Frank Marfai, residential mathematics instructor, who also serves on the College’s STEAM Committee.
The answer, he says, is that they’re “not mutually exclusive.” Each approach gained traction in the early 2000s, and has always focused on the development of problem-solving skills through interdisciplinary training. Both emphasize Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Marfai clarifies, however, that the acronyms aren’t interchangeable—STEAM and STEM are distinct educational frameworks.
“STEAM programming enriches interdisciplinary fields through creativity, imagination, and innovation, but also stresses ethics and critical thinking. This is especially important as new technologies and scientific approaches emerge, impacting our community,” he adds.
The take-aways? First, STEAM is intended to enhance the STEM experience, not compete with it. Second, students preparing for STEAM careers need to develop personalized pathways, tailored to their unique talents and interests. While it’s never too late to undertake training in a STEAM field, students should be exposed to this multidisciplinary learning as early as possible.
Charting a Path
Many young people—and working adults, for that matter—struggle with the perennial question: What should I do for a living? The STEAM approach to career exploration helps by encouraging students to explore personal interests through real-world problem solving.
Pairing STEAM coursework with Work-Based Education opportunities, like those coordinated by Phoenix College, is another opportunity for students to discover interdisciplinary professions that suit them.
Work-Based Experiences (WBE)
In 2020, Phoenix College formally launched its WBE Initiative. Spearheaded by PC’s Dean of Industry and Public Service, Maria Reyes; as well as Nichole Escobedo, who serves as the College’s Title V Project Director, the program builds on a century of relationships with the community.
The initiative offers students many ways to connect with employers, researchers, and professionals who are practicing within the realm of STEAM careers. The program offers students the ability to test drive occupations, before matriculating to four-year programs outside PC. Reyes and Escobedo will share these opportunities during the event.
Escobedo has been closely involved with STEAM Days since its inception. A former classroom instructor who’s taught physics at PC, her commitment to STEAM, and STEM programming, is a central component of her professional life. “It’s critical that we provide students opportunities to explore careers in the STEAM fields. The pandemic may have altered the traditional approaches to classroom learning, but STEAM’s ties to technology, collaboration, and creative exploration, make it more relevant than ever.”
To learn more about STEAM Days, visit: phoenixcollege.edu/STEAM.