NMSU STEM Outreach Center makes positive economic impact on Doña Ana County

Writer: Adriana M. Chavez, 575-646-1957, adchavez@nmsu.edu

Two students

Two students at a local elementary work on a stop motion animation project where they learned about the solar system and created an animation to explain the scientific processes associated with themes in space sciences. The students participate in an program hosted by the STEM Outreach Center at New Mexico State University. (NMSU photo courtesy of Nicole Delgado)

The STEM Outreach Center at New Mexico State University has had an overall economic output of $15 million since 2009, generating more than 200 jobs and contributing positively to Doña Ana County, according to a recent in-depth research analysis study conducted by Leo Delgado, a doctoral candidate from NMSU’s Economic Development program.

The center, which is housed in the NMSU College of Education, has also generated $7.77 million in labor income for the local economy and provided $4.95 million in childcare savings for area households that utilize the center’s after-school programs.

Susan Brown, director of the STEM Outreach Center at NMSU, said the center’s impact on the local economy highlights a need for STEM education not only in southern New Mexico, but across the state.

“New Mexico has a great, albeit largely untapped human potential in its diverse population,” Brown said. “The challenge cannot be understated in virtually any national or objective standard or criteria for poverty, health or education, that New Mexico is still close to last in mathematics and science with the achievement gap worsening.”

The STEM Outreach Center provides outreach programs and professional development opportunities statewide in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. From 2009-2017, more than 24,000 students participated in the center’s after-school programs. The center has also provided 1,147 professional development events benefiting 2,000 teachers, according to the center’s study.

teacher with students

STEM Up professional development teacher participants attend a training on STEM for out-of-school time programs. The training was hosted by the STEM Outreach Center at New Mexico State University, which recently released the results of its economic impact study. (NMSU photo courtesy of Nicole Delgado)

The study forecasts that the center will contribute about 36 jobs to the local economy this year, and contribute about $1.28 million in labor income to the Doña Ana County economy with an overall economic output of $2.7 million in 2018.

In 2016, the STEM Outreach Center received a nearly $12 million four-year grant to fund out-of-school time STEM programs in the Las Cruces, Hatch and Gadsden school districts. The grant was awarded by the New Mexico Public Education Department’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program.

Last year, the APS Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Arizona Public Service Company, awarded a $140,000 grant to the STEM Outreach Center. In 2015, the center received a $137,000 grant from the APS Foundation to establish STEM-related after-school programs for Farmington students in grades 3 through 8. As of July 2016, STEM programs in Farmington reached 476 students, and 29 teachers were trained to deliver the programs.

And in the fall, officials from the STEM Outreach Center, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and White Sands Missile Range debuted the TECH (Test and Evaluation Collaboration Hub) Center at O’Donnell Hall. NMSU, in conjunction with White Sands Missile Range, received a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to build and maintain the lab, which is touted as an immersive learning experience for students in the STEM fields.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those working in STEM occupations generally have higher earnings than those who do not work in STEM occupations. Most STEM occupations also have earnings with mean wages significantly above the national average. STEM occupations account for about a quarter of all occupations both at the state and national levels.

Brown said the future economic wellbeing of New Mexico, as well as the nation, depends on students with internationally competitive skills in the math and science.

“It is also essential that students are motivated to enroll and complete postsecondary programs leading to highly skilled STEM careers,” Brown said. “For the present, we are in a crisis situation pertaining to STEM education. In the U.S., only about 15 percent of undergraduate degrees are in the STEM fields. It is imperative that U.S. students are comfortable in the STEM fields.”

For more information about the STEM Outreach Center, visit https://stem.nmsu.edu/.

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