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WATCH: How do we balance the STEM equation?

Washington Post education editor Josh White, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven discuss new measures in the House and Senate essentially overhauling federal education policy and providing greater control to local authorities. (Video: Washington Post Live)

Balancing the Equation | Sept. 10, 2015
3:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET, The Washington Post

Educators, students and policymakers gathered in Washington Thursday to discuss innovative efforts in classrooms around the country to strengthen STEM education, especially for girls and students in underserved communities.


Former astronaut Mae C. Jemison gave opening remarks at The Washington Post's Balancing the Equation live event. (Video: The Washington Post)
New Horizons mission operations manager Alice Bowman, Maury Elementary teacher Vanessa Ford, sixth grade student Samantha Garcia and Bezoz Family Foundation advisor Mark Hofer, Senior Advisor, Bezos Family Foundation discuss ways to inspire the youngest generations to study science, technology, engineering and math. (Video: Washington Post Live)
D.C. Public Schools chancellor Kaya Henderson, Education Deputy Secretary John King, UNCF president Michael Lomax and Washington Post high education writer Nick Anderson discuss the challenges in Washington and across the country of funding public schools and training teachers. (Video: Washington Post Live)


3:00 p.m. Welcome remarks
Lois Romano, Editor, Washington Post Live

Expanding their universe
How to inspire the youngest generations
Alice Bowman, Mission Operations Manager for New Horizons, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab
Vanessa Ford, Think Tank Teacher, Maury Elementary, D.C. Public Schools
Samantha Garcia, Student, Basis D.C. Public Charter School
Mark Hofer, Senior Advisor, Bezos Family Foundation
Moderated by Kathleen Schwille, Executive Director, National Geographic Education Foundation

Table discussions

From theory to law
What it takes to reform national education policies and the future of STEM initiatives
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.)
Moderated by Josh White, Education Editor, The Washington Post

What’s working and what’s next
Highlighting innovative efforts to close the STEM education gap
Kaya Henderson, Chancellor, D.C. Public Schools
John King, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
Michael Lomax, President and Chief Executive, UNCF
Moderated by Nick Anderson, Higher Education Writer, The Washington Post


Alice Bowman
New Horizons Mission Operations Manager, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

As mission operations manager, Alice Bowman leads the team controlling NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on its voyage to Pluto and beyond from “mission control” at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. Previously, Bowman was a satellite technical advisor to U.S. Space Command. At the California Institute of Technology, she developed tumor-targeting micelles, programmed computer simulations to study how explosions affect soil compression and wave propagation, and developed silicon-based semiconductors that detected infrared waves emitted by cruise missiles and stars. Bowman joined the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in 1997 and has served on various spacecraft teams such as the Midcourse Space Experiment, CONTOUR and New Horizons.

Vanessa Ford has taught in D.C. Public and D.C. Public Charter Schools since 2002. She currently leads the Think Tank program at Maury Elementary — a class in which students explore STEM concepts while building problem-solving skills. Ford is a 2014 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science finalist, a Next Generation Science Standards @ National Science Teachers Association curator and a member of the  2014 Honeywell Educator @ Space Academy class. She was trained as a teacher-leader by Engineering is Elementary and Project Lead the Way. She was also selected as a 2015 recipient of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Educational Activities Board Pre-University Educator Award.

Samantha Garcia
Student, Basis D.C. Public Charter School

Samantha Garcia is in sixth grade at Basis Public Charter School. She is a former student of Maury Elementary and loves to travel, play softball and practice the flute. Garcia says she has always dreamed of becoming an astronaut and hopes to be one of the first people to visit Mars. At the White House’s SoSTEM event, she interviewed NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and chief scientist Ellen Stofan.

Kaya Henderson has served as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools since 2010. Henderson joined DCPS in 2007 as deputy chancellor of human capital. Previously, she was a partner at The New Teacher Project, responsible for helping urban school districts retain and recruit effective teachers. She was also the executive director of Teach For America – D.C. Region, a national admissions director and recruiter for Teach for America and a middle school Spanish teacher in the South Bronx.

Sen. John Hoeven has represented North Dakota in the United States Senate since 2011 following ten years of service as the state’s governor. He is a member of the Senate Appropriations, Agriculture, Energy and Indian Affairs Committees. Hoeven served as executive vice president of First Western Bank in Minot from 1986 to 1993. From 1993 to 2000, he served as president and chief executive of the Bank of North Dakota.

Mark Hofer is a senior advisor at the Bezos Family Foundation in Seattle. He has worked in psychology, physiology, biology and aerospace engineering research labs and taught high school science and psychology. Hofer received his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development from Seattle University. His main focus currently is the development and facilitation of leadership curriculum for the Bezos Scholars Program and preparing the next generation of leaders.

John B. King, Jr. is the senior advisor of delegated duties for the Deputy Secretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Previously, King served as the commissioner of education for the state of New York. In this role, he was the chief executive officer of the State Education Department and president of the University of the State of New York . Before becoming commissioner, King served as senior deputy commissioner for P–12 education at the New York State Education Department and managing director with Uncommon Schools, a non-profit charter management organization that operates urban public schools in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. King was a co-founder and co-director for curriculum and instruction of Roxbury Preparatory Charter School. He also taught high school social studies in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Boston, Massachusetts. King was a 1995 Truman Scholar and received the James Madison Memorial Fellowship for secondary-level teaching of American history, American government and social studies. In February 2011, King was appointed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to serve on the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission.

Michael L. Lomax is president and chief executive of United Negro College Fund, a private provider of scholarships and educational support to African-American college students. Annually, UNCF enables 60,000 students to attend UNCF-member historically black colleges and universities. Previously, Lomax was president of Dillard University in New Orleans, a literature professor at Morehouse and Spelman colleges in Atlanta and the elected chairman of the Fulton County Commission in Atlanta. He currently serves on the boards of Teach For America and the KIPP Foundation.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has represented New Hampshire in the United States Senate

since 2009. She is a member of the Senate Committees on Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Appropriations, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Shaheen served as governor of New Hampshire from 1997 to 2003. Between her time as governor and senator, she was the director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government.

Table Hosts:

Donna Harris-Aikens is director of the Education Policy and Practice Department at the National Education Association. The Education Policy and Practice Department is NEA’s primary policy center on elementary and secondary education issues, as well as early education, higher education, and career technical education. Harris-Aikens is the association’s primary liaison to the U.S. Department of Education. She was selected to serve as a member of the Democratic Party’s Platform Drafting Committee in 2008 and 2012. Previously, she served as the policy manager for Service Employees International Union’s Public Services Division. She was also director of government relations for the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium and an attorney in an education boutique law firm.

Bob Black is chief executive and co-founder of Start Engineering. Through its books and resources, the company aims to engage students, particularly women and minorities, in engineering. Previously, Black served as deputy executive director of the American Society for Engineering Education. He was also deputy business editor at U.S News and World Report, one of the original members of the Congressional Budget Office and a senior economist at the Urban Institute.

Charles Britt is the manager of STEM outreach programs at Northern Virginia Community College Annandale campus. He is responsible for developing collaborative partnerships with industry, local government and the public school system to build and expand science, technology, engineering and math focused co-curricular and experiential learning programs for Fairfax County’s K-12 student population.  Previously, Britt spent over 12 years working within the Central Intelligence Agency, specifically in the area of cybersecurity. Britt is vice chair of the Fairfax County Public Schools Career and Technical Education Committee. He also serves as an advisory board member with Per Scholas and the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

Michael Casserly
Executive Director, Council of the Great City Schools

Michael Casserly has served as executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools since January 1992. He also served as the organization’s director of legislation and research for 15 years. As head of the urban school group, Casserly led the nation’s largest urban school districts to volunteer for the National Assessment of Educational Progress and guided the organization to call for the Common Core Standards. He is currently spearheading efforts to boost academic performance in big city schools and improve the public’s image of urban education.

David Evans is the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, a professional organization representing educators in science. Previously, Evans was director of the Center for Sustainability: Earth, Energy, and Climate at Noblis, Inc., undersecretary for science at the Smithsonian Institution, assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, deputy assistant administrator at the National Marine Fisheries Service and senior scientist at the National Ocean Services. In 2001, Evans led the White House Global Climate Change Initiative, coordinating related activities of some 12 federal agencies. He was also a tenured professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and was a classroom teacher in Media, Penn.

 Maria Voles Ferguson
Executive Director, Center on Education Policy, George Washington University

Maria Voles Ferguson is the executive director of the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University, an independent nonprofit organization that studies and reports on education policy and practice. Previously, Ferguson served as the vice president for policy at the Alliance for Excellent Education and as director of the National School Boards Foundation. She worked as an independent consultant specializing in research, communications and strategic planning for clients including Target Corporation, The Brookings Institution, the U.S. Department of Education’s Regional Education Laboratories and Sidwell Friends School. She served for three years as the director of field operations for New American Schools and was a political appointee for the Clinton administration at the U.S. Department of Education, serving as the director of communication and outreach services for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. Ferguson also co-chaired the department’s annual Improving America’s Schools Conferences, which annually attracted over 4,000 participants.

Bart Gordon joined K&L Gates as partner in the Washington, D.C. office after 26 years representing the state of Tennessee in the United States House of Representatives. Gordon served as chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology from 2007 to 2010. He was also a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Rules, Transatlantic Parliamentary Dialogue and NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

Peter Guttmacher
Director of Programming and Curricula Development, D.C. Trust for Youth

Peter Guttmacher is the director of programming and curricula development at D.C. Trust for Youth, where his work focuses on citywide learning, practitioner professional development and program quality. A former teacher, tutor and trainer of adults and young people in Boston, Los Angeles and New York City, he is also the author of a series of seven books on film. Most recently, Guttmacher served as education advisor to the exhibit, “Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code” for the National Institutes of Health and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Guttmacher first trained as an actor, and performed at New Haven’s Long Wharf Theater, the Boston Shakespeare Company and the Manhattan Theater Club. He premiered several plays with the Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner.

Carol O’Donnell is the executive director of the Smithsonian Science Education Center, a unit of the Smithsonian Institution that aims to transform the science and learning education. Previously, O’Donnell was a leader in the Office of State Support at the U.S. Department of Education, supporting states and districts as they implement and sustain education reforms and achieve continued improvement in student outcomes. A former K-12 teacher and curriculum developer, O’Donnell is still in the classroom today — serving on the part-time faculty of the physics department at George Washington University.

Devon Rollins
Co-founder and Managing Partner, STEMLY

Devon Rollins is the co-founder and managing partner of STEMLY, a nonprofit organization aimed at connecting groups developing programming across STEM subjects to retrofit curriculums in culturally relevant ways. Rollins is also a cyber-economics consultant at Ernst & Young. He’s written on policy issues for the Center for American Progress and has been a featured speaker for Capital Partners for Education.

Duane Rollins is an user-experience designer at Threespot and co-founder of STEMLY, a nonprofit organization aimed at connecting groups developing programming across STEM subjects to retrofit curriculums in culturally relevant ways. He also teaches user experience design at General Assembly. Previously, he worked as a UX/UI designer at Juice Analytics where he helped design data visualization projects. He currently serves on the board for the Washington Leadership Academy.

Daniel Alcazar-Roman currently serves as a K-12 science and technology instructional specialist at Alexandria City Public Schools. Previously, he was a science teacher and a curriculum and assessment specialist supporting schools in the Houston Independent School District. Alcazar-Roman also serves as a STEM expert on the faculty of the Smithsonian Science Education Center, working on national and international science education reform efforts.

Heidi Schweingruber is the director of the Board on Science Education at the National Research Council. Schweingruber co-authored two award-winning books for practitioners that translate findings of NRC reports for a broader audience: “Ready, Set, Science! Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms” and “Surrounded by Science.” Previously, she worked as a senior research associate at the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education where she administered the preschool curriculum evaluation program and a grant program in mathematics education. She was director of research for the Rice University School Mathematics Project and has served on the advisory boards for the Merck Institute for Science Education, the Discovery Learning Research Center at Purdue University and Building Capacity for State Science Education.

Meeta Sharma-Holt is the executive director of Techbridge’s Washington D.C. office. Techbridge’s programs aim to inspire middle and high school-aged girls in underserved communities to discover an interest in science, technology and engineering. Sharma-Holt began her career developing corporate mentoring programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and later operating a large multi-site after-school teen center, and summer program for at a settlement house. Once in Washington, D.C., she initially assisted over 20 charter school sites to develop their after-school services, and then directed a citywide effort to create the model of after-school program delivery called Project My Time.

Russell Shilling
Executive Director of STEM, U.S. Department of Education

Russell Shilling is the executive director of STEM at the U.S. Department of Education, overseeing the department’s policies to drive innovation in science, technology, engineering and math education and enhance interagency coordination. Previously, Shilling served as a Navy captain, retiring after 22 years of service as a Navy aerospace experimental psychologist focusing on education, training and psychological health. Shilling has also held several program management positions at the Office of Naval Research  and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Michelle Thaller is the assistant director of science at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center. Thaller has a Ph.D. from Georgia State University. After a post-doctoral research fellowship at Caltech, she became particularly interested in public outreach and science communication and served as the public outreach lead for the Spitzer Space Telescope at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory before moving to Goddard. She is currently serving a one-year leadership fellowship in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in D.C. Thaller is one of the regular hosts of “The Universe” series on the History Channel, NatGeo’s “the Known Universe” and Discovery Science Channel’s “How the Universe Works,” and “The Stripped Universe.” She also serves as a science advisor for John and Hank Greene’s Crash Course series on PBS Home Video.

Biographies are provided by speakers and edited only for length and clarity.