New Center for Mathematics and Science Education Director Takes Charge

Alice Steimle has helped lead center's programs to improve STEM education for 14 years

Alice Steimle

OXFORD, Miss. – Fourteen years ago, Alice Steimle joined the Center for Mathematics and Science Education at the University of Mississippi as an assistant instructional professor and project manager. Two promotions later, she recently became the center’s new director.

The CMSE’s mission is to improve mathematics and science education in Mississippi by helping build relationships between K-12 and university educators, promoting research-based teaching practices in the classroom and inspiring young minds to consider career possibilities in STEM fields. The work of the center is done through its two divisions: Professional Learning and K-12 STEM Experiences.

“As director, I will continue to work toward this mission by leading the staff members within the CMSE, the graduate research fellows and undergraduate assistants,” said Steimle, who previously served as associate director.

“I want to continue to build upon the great partnerships that have been created and continue to build collaborations across campus and statewide. The School of Education’s and the University of Mississippi’s support of our work is vital for our continued success.”

Steimle brings tremendous experience providing professional development for educators across the region, said David Rock, dean of the UM School of Education.

“Dr. Steimle’s commitment to the teaching and learning of mathematics and science is a true asset to the state of Mississippi,” Rock said. “She is an exceptional leader and I am confident she will continue the success of the Center for Mathematics and Science Education.”

Steimle replaces John O’Haver, professor of chemical engineering and the center’s founding director, who is retiring in December. Under O’Haver’s and Steimle’s leadership, the center has:

  • Provided 41 graduate students with graduate research fellowships while they completed master’s or doctoral degrees in mathematics education, science education, elementary education or mathematics. Eighty-five percent of these graduates reside in Mississippi and are continuing to make an impact in math and science education.
  • Coordinated mathematics content courses for education majors through a partnership with the UM mathematics department. Some 1,600 pre-service teachers have enrolled in these courses.
  • Helped more than 6,400 teachers – representing 513 public schools in 129 school districts across the state – update their skills with CMSE-led professional development sessions.

Since 2012, the FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Program, led by the CMSE, has grown from four teams to 67 teams across the state. More than 33,000 Mississippi students have experienced the CMSE Mobile Planetarium, and more than 3,000 K-12 students have attended CMSE STEM Excursions on the Ole Miss campus.

“Hiring great people and working with great students has been most fulfilling for me,” O’Haver said. “All of us were working to make math and science education in Mississippi better for the future of the kids of Mississippi.”

Steimle said she hopes to continue the work that was begun under O’Haver’s direction.

“His leadership and vision provided such great opportunities for so many people,” she said. “I will be forever grateful for his influence and belief in me and my leadership abilities.”

Steimle has already set both short- and long-term goals for herself.

“My goals for the CMSE include for all of the individuals who are a part of the CMSE to remain knowledgeable of current research and best practices in an effort to help support teachers and ensure that students succeed,” she said. “Maintaining connections and building partnerships will remain an important goal of the CMSE, as well as continuing to strive for excellence in all that we do.”

A major and necessary goal will be to continue to secure state and national funding focused on STEM education research and helping to improve mathematics and science education in Mississippi.

“Since 2006, various grants and donations have afforded the CMSE the opportunity to fulfill and continue to expand its mission to develop programs, both internal and external to the University of Mississippi,” Steimle said.

“These programs help develop the STEM workforce pipeline, enhance the quality of STEM education and produce graduates who foster further growth in our state.”