St. Jude, UofM partner with local organizations to expand STEM opportunities in Memphis

June 23, 2022 — St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the University of Memphis, the Tennessee Department of Education, Memphis-Shelby County Schools and other area colleges and universities, have created a new partnership to expand access to STEM education to provide educational opportunities to students who have been historically underrepresented in science-related careers.

Memphis was one of three new cities to join the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice (SLECoP), which provides resources and expertise for pre-K through 12th-grade students for daily classroom activities as well as after-school and summer programs. SLECoP currently has ecosystems in 40 U.S. states as well as Kenya, Israel, Mexico and Canada.

Kate Ayers, director of Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) Education and Outreach for St. Jude, says the collaborative nature of the project will allow the participating organizations to pool their resources to address issues related to racial equity in STEM education. “We know we can do more together than we could ever imagine doing alone,” says Ayers. “Stronger, more connected STEM learning opportunities will benefit the city of Memphis and surrounding areas.”

St. Jude’s involvement in the project stems from priorities outlined in the institution’s 2022-27 Strategic Plan to “enrich the talent pipeline by developing educational efforts targeted at potential future St. Jude employees.” This includes providing opportunities for youth to participate in high-quality STEM learning experiences, such as the St. Jude Afterschool STEM Club, the Middle School Community Health Club, and the new High School and College Research Immersion Program. These new clubs will begin when the new school season starts in the fall.

Jaime Sabel, Ph.D., a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Memphis, sees the importance of providing guidance and assistance for students interested in science and technology-based careers. “My goals are to enhance opportunities and understanding of concepts to best support students in reaching their goals,” Sabel said. “The STEMM Ecosystem is providing partners and resources to help advance additional research to understand the issues, to broadly share existing opportunities for students, and to work collaboratively to create new opportunities for students interested in STEMM.”

In addition to St. Jude, the University of Memphis, the Tennessee Department of Education and MSCS, the local partnership group includes the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, LeMoyne-Owen College, Baptist Health Sciences University, Crosstown High School, Memphis School of Excellence, Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, Frayser Community PTSA, Westwood High School PTSA, Memphis Public Libraries, CodeCrew, the Greater Memphis Chamber, Seeding Success, SweetBio and Stand for Children. The Tennessee STEM Innovation Network is also involved.

“As an organization that relies on science, technology, engineering and math professionals to provide quality health care to the community, it is vital that we collaborate with other leaders in the community to support STEM professionals and stimulate interest in STEM education and careers,” said Lilian Nyindod, Ph.D., MPH, program chair and associate professor of biomedical sciences for Baptist Health Sciences University.