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Why CRISTAL Was Founded...

The Center for Research and Innovation in STEM Teaching and Learning (CRISTAL) was developed as a concept in 2009 when the leadership of the University of Memphis decided to markedly strengthen its focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. An interdisciplinary steering committee assessed current programs, courses, and activities in order to make recommendations that would increase K-20 interest and pursuit of STEM careers.

In 2012, CRISTAL received university funding to provide staff and basic resources. Dr. Peter Bridson, Associate Professor of Chemistry, was appointed the new Director, and Dr. Judith Faris, Director of Research Development, was named Associate Director. In October 2012 the University of Memphis was awarded state Race to the Top funding to lead the West Tennessee STEM Hub, one of six STEM hubs across the state. Dr. Stephanie Ivey (Herff College of Engineering) is Principal Investigator and Dr. Alfred Hall (CEHHS), Director.

In late 2012 and early 2013 two full-time employees were hired (Dr. Cathy Wilson, Associate Director, and Erica Boyce, Administrative Associate II). Consequently, CRISTAL and the STEM Hub have developed in tandem. The STEM Hub addresses STEM education needs for K-12 across West Tennessee, while CRISTAL, as the umbrella organization, extends support to include K-20 needs. Both the STEM Hub and CRISTAL have worked closely to develop a richer understanding of STEM education, identify resources for K-20 and provide professional development for teachers and faculty. Although the staff has changed in recent years, the infrastructure that was developed has provided a strong base for STEM education in the area.

We believe STEM is not just an acronym for content knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but refers to a philosophy of teaching and learning leading to graduates with quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical skills relevant for the 21st century workforce.