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Courtney Jones, a former high school principal in Arkansas and most recently an educator in Jefferson City, Missouri, has been appointed as the founding director of the Kummer Center for STEM Education at Missouri S&T. She began her duties on July 15.
As director, Jones will develop the mission, vision and strategic plan for the new center. She will lead and coordinate outreach initiatives for grades K-12 that use S&T’s expertise to improve education experiences for students and instruction experiences for teaching.
The center will serve K-12 students and teachers primarily in the rural schools of south-central Missouri, in alignment with the vision of the Kummer Institute for Student Success, Research and Economic Development at Missouri S&T. Late St. Louis entrepreneur Fred Kummer, a Missouri S&T graduate, and his wife, June, donated $300 million to Missouri S&T last fall to establish the Kummer Institute. Their donation is the largest single gift ever to any public or private university in Missouri and one of the largest ever to any university.
“Mr. Kummer was adamant that Missouri S&T introduce more students to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM,” says Dr. Stephen Roberts, vice chancellor of strategic initiatives at S&T and chief operating officer of the Kummer Institute. “We are thrilled to welcome Courtney Jones to lead this charge. She has spent the past 21 years honing her skills of ensuring student success through teaching, learning and leading. Her expertise and experience will serve students and teachers well.”
Jones previously served as a district curriculum coordinator and science specialist for the Jefferson City School District in Jefferson City, Missouri. Prior to that, she was the high school principal for Lincoln Consolidated School in Lincoln, Arkansas, for seven years. She has also served as a statewide facilitator for the Northwest Arkansas Education Co-op. Her previous educational roles have included high school teacher, adjunct faculty member at Arkansas State University-Newport, and middle school assistant principal.
“I am excited to join S&T because it is a great university where students are considered the first priority,” Jones said. “Missouri S&T is grounded in tradition but also on the cutting edge in so many fields. The people and community are wonderful, and I can feel the tremendous amount of pride people have for this university.”
Jones earned a specialist in education degree (Ed.S.) in educational administration and supervision from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2013. She also earned a master’s degree in integrated science and mathematics from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2009 and a bachelor’s degree in botany from Arkansas State University in 1997.
“My goal for the center is to provide as many opportunities as possible for Missouri students to access STEM-related experiences by providing support and building partnerships with surrounding schools,” Jones says. “It is so important for students to know what is available to them so they can make choices. Too many times students are making decisions based on lack of exposure to possibilities. As a STEM educator for over 20 years, I also look forward to partnering with the South Central Regional Professional Development Center to provide learning opportunities for teachers to create and expand engaging lessons in STEM-related areas.”
The new center will be housed in S&T’s department of teacher education and certification, which offers a bachelor of science in education degree. In addition to funding from the Kummer Institute, a grant from the MoExcels Workforce Initiative will be used to launch the center and fund a mobile STEM lab.
“The Kummer Center for STEM Education will provide teacher education and an opportunity for other S&T students to design and teach activities for K-12 students,” says Dr. Beth Kania-Gosche, chair of teacher education and certification at S&T. “Whether we are organizing summer camps, hosting field trips on campus or visiting schools with the mobile STEM lab, these experiences will benefit our students, the K-12 learners and those communities. Our ultimate goal is to encourage more K-12 students to pursue education or STEM fields as a career pathway to better meet the workforce needs of our region.”