Dow Makes Positive Impact in STEM Education Globally and Locally Through STEM Ambassador Network

By: Joe Maglaty, PhD, STEM Program Manager, the Dow Chemical Company

Furthering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is a key component to solving the complex environmental, economic and social challenges facing our world today and in the future. Providing our future leaders with the knowledge and tools to succeed is based on the belief that an employed, productive workforce is fundamental to the health of each community. Dow is committed to building the workforce of tomorrow as part of our goal to positively impact the lives of one billion people across the globe by 2025.

Dow supports project-based learning concepts that connect to careers and increase interest in STEM professions, mainly chemistry, engineering and manufacturing. We understand that behind each student motivated by STEM is an inspiring educator. We support teacher training and professional development programs, with a focus on science and chemistry. This work is driven by our Dow STEM Ambassadors, trained employee volunteers, who lend their passion and expertise to engage students and support teachers year-round.

A Delaware Dow STEM Ambassador and Rapid Customer Sampling Group Lead and Engineer, Lauren Leonard, recently shared with me why she is a part of the program, “I volunteer in the STEM program because when you ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, they will commonly answer with careers that they have exposure to: a teacher, a doctor, a writer – they do not say engineer because they do not have contact with engineers on a daily basis. I appreciate that Dow’s STEM program puts that option in their mind.”

Globally, in 2015, the Dow STEM Ambassador network was made up of over 1,600 Ambassadors across 17 sites in 6 countries. This type of programming is also applied locally and is vibrant in Delaware. The STEM Ambassador program supported 80 events in the Delaware Valley last year, and our volunteers clocked-in nearly 2,000 hours and impacted tens of thousands of community members. Dow’s partnerships also aim to give individuals of all ages and all backgrounds the opportunity and the support to pursue a successful STEM career.

As Liliana Carrillo, Delaware STEM Ambassador and Run Plant Engineer – IC Casting, recently explained to me, “There is a low percentage of minorities and women in STEM and I would like to show young students the great things a career in STEM can bring and how they can change the world with it. Supporting the aspiring young leaders in our communities is an important step to achieving change and promoting academic success.”

Dow STEM Ambassadors make it possible for us to change and impact communities, bringing science to life for many. In Delaware, the Dow STEM Ambassadors have been a part of a variety of local events. This past April, Dow sponsored and hosted the You Be the Chemist Delaware State Challenge for middle school students at our Newark, DE site. Students participated in multiple rounds of quiz bowl-style Q&A, and had the opportunity to engage one-on-one with Dow STEM Ambassadors. Dow STEM Ambassadors were also on-site at the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ Science Night and the 2016 Special Olympics Delaware with fun, hands-on activities related to the science behind sports. Attendees had the opportunity to construct their own luge sleds and take them for a test ride on a mini track. Additionally, a rolling friction test also allowed attendees to explore how various balls roll down different athletic surfaces.

Terry A. Hays-Sapp, Senior Administrative Professional and Dow STEM Ambassador who has volunteered at 28 activities including the Special Olympics Delaware said, “I admire Dow as a company for giving people with disabilities the opportunity to be employed as well as Dow’s commitment to STEM education for the young. If we tap our young students we can change the path they are on and change the world.”

Our work with young people is key as the demand for skilled workers in STEM will continue into the future. In my role as Dow’s STEM Program Manager, I also work closely with The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, one of the leading science centers in the country. My job is to encourage the Dow STEM Ambassadors to promote and support STEM education in communities where they live and work, and support their efforts by identifying opportunities for them to engage learners in the process of scientific inquiry. My connection with The Franklin Institute enables me to leverage additional resources, best practices and strategies for employees to help enhance their STEM efforts here in this region.

This year, Dow also returned as the presenting sponsor of the Philadelphia Science Festival for the sixth year in a row. Led by The Franklin Institute and Dow, the festival spanned over nine days, encompassed more than 90 events, engaged more than 160 Dow employees and attracted 75,000 science fans from the Delaware Valley.

The Dow STEM Ambassador network continues to grow as the need for skilled STEM workers continues to rise. Each day, Dow engages more talented and passionate employees in community programs that support STEM education in an effort to strengthen the value, quality and impact the Company brings to the Delaware Valley, and the world.

Dr. Joseph Maglaty is the Dow STEM program manager for the Delaware Valley.  In his role, he is responsible for managing day to day operations of Dow’s STEM outreach in the Delaware Valley, supporting the growth and impact of the region’s STEM Ambassador Network. Joe is a member of the Delaware Valley STEM Ambassador Steering Team and has brought valuable STEM education outreach experience and passion to this new role.  He previously volunteered at The Franklin Institute as a science presenter, bringing his teaching expertise to an industry leader and, prior to that, Joe had a long career at Merck & Co., serving as director of education outreach at the Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) for eight years,  where he designed, planned, and implemented highly successful volunteer programs at Merck’s major research sites, local community organizations and schools.