CEDAR RAPIDS – A planned new Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa will offer partnerships and collaborations focused on science, technology, engineering and math education unlike any other partnerships found nationally, officials leading the project said.
The new regional center will bring together the strengths and resources of Kirkwood Community College, the UI, a number of area high schools and hopefully national grant-funding groups, UI and Kirkwood officials said Tuesday in a visit to The Gazette Editorial Board to discuss the plan.
“We’re very early on, but we’re optimistic,” UI Vice President for Research and Economic Development Jordan Cohen said. “We’re focused on both strengthening the workforce through enhancing career academies, and also providing opportunities to think and rethink how we deliver STEM education, how kids learn and how we teach.”
Bids on the new regional center, to be housed at the UI’s Oakdale campus in Coralville, likely will go out this spring, with the center expected to open in fall of 2015 to serve about 500 students from area schools.
The programming to be housed there will boost science, technology, engineering and math education, research and teaching, officials said.
The center will provide career academy offerings to area high school students, similar to what other Kirkwood regional centers offer, but also will foster partnerships with UI-specific entities, such as the Iowa Hygienic Lab and the National Driving Simulator, that can benefit high school students, teachers, and UI undergraduate and graduate students, officials said.
The role of the UI Research Park is not just in providing the site for the center, but also offering up those natural connections to the STEM-oriented Kirkwood career academies for high school students, UI Provost Barry Butler said. The UI also brings to the table the opportunity to engage academic units, faculty and students in the classrooms at the regional center, Butler said, with the focus especially on advancing STEM education and teaching.
The Kirkwood Regional Center at the UI won’t replace programs that are working well in area high schools, but rather offer the types of courses or programs that some schools don’t have the resources or numbers to offer, Jon Weih, director of student services at Kirkwood’s Iowa City campus, said.