Polk STEM Program a Finalist for Bellwether Award

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Polk State College’s entry, Growing the Stem: Implementing a Collegiate STEMProgram, has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious Bellwether Award.

The Community College Futures Assembly, sponsored by the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Florida, has convened for 20 years as an independent national policy forum for identifying critical issues facing the future of community colleges.

The Assembly’s Bellwether Award recognizes trend-setting community colleges in three categories: Institutional Programs & Services; Planning, Governance & Finance; and Workforce Development.

Polk State College was one of 10 finalists in the 2014 Instructional Programs & Services Category, beating out nominations submitted from institutions across the country.

Growing the STEM: Implementing a Collegiate STEM Program highlighted an instructional initiative implemented at Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School.

Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School launched its STEM Research Enhancement Program in the 2011-12 school year. The program provides students with targeted academic advising, academic support, a rigorous STEM research curriculum, and other preparation for students planning to major in STEM disciplines in college.

The STEM Research Enhancement Program is bolstered by partnerships with STEM practitioners in Polk County. Those partnerships allow students to gain real-world exposure to STEM fields.

Those partnerships have grown — hence the title, Growing the STEM — into the Scholarobotics Academy, in which students spend the summer earning college credit and learning about robotic surgery and a first-of-its-kind certification program for nurses who participate in robotic surgery procedures. Winter Haven Hospital is the key partner in both Scholarobotics and the certification program.

Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School Director Bridget Fetter, Health Science and STEM Education Professor Suzanne Halverson, District Board of Trustees Chair Linda Pilkington, and Vice President for Academic and Student Services Ken Ross will present Growing the STEM during the 2014 Community College Futures Assembly in January in Orlando.

This is the second consecutive year Polk has been a Bellwether finalist. In 2013, the College was a finalist in the Workforce Development category for Breaking Down the Silos — Shared Content Between Corporate Training and Academics. Breaking Down the Silos highlighted the College’s work to create pathways that link credit and noncredit courses in advanced manufacturing.

Polk State College operates two public, charter high schools, Polk State Lakeland Collegiate and Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate in Winter Haven. The schools serve juniors and seniors, allowing them to fulfill requirements for their high school diplomas while also earning college credit — all at no cost. In many cases, students graduate with both their diplomas and associate’s degrees. A third public, charter high school, Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College, helps students get back on academic track and earn college credits.