12/02/2014 Peter Durantine

Seek Untapped STEM Talent, Porterfield Tells White House Workshop

This magazine article is part of Autumn 2014 / Issue 79
  • President Porterfield speaks at the White House's STEM Education Workshop President Porterfield speaks at the White House's STEM Education Workshop Image Credit: Courtesy of the University of Colorado, Boulder

Eight months after playing a lead role at a special White House summit on access to higher education in America, Franklin & Marshall President Daniel R. Porterfield addressed the White House’s STEM Education Workshop in September at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he called on colleges and universities to seek out and recruit more minorities and women to STEM fields.           

“It’s why the president, the first lady, and the White House issued a call to action at last January’s White House Summit,” Porterfield said. “They did so because of the problem we’re here to solve: the persistent underrepresentation of women and minorities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math—fields that will grow and change exponentially in the years to come, and which demand full representation of American leaders drawn from all communities.”

At the workshop held as part of the White House’s “College Opportunity Initiative,” Porterfield was one of four speakers to address more than 100 national leaders in higher education, government and business on the topic “Barriers, Opportunities and Success” for students in the STEM fields. The other three panelists were University of Colorado Boulder Provost Russell Moore, University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, and White House Associate Director for Science Jo Handelsman from the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The event was a follow-up to the White House’s Jan. 16 Higher Education Summit, where Porterfield urged the nation’s higher education community to recognize and recruit from the high-achieving academic talent in the nation's low-income student populations.

The invitation to participate in the STEM workshop came after F&M was named during the January summit as one of 10 leading colleges and universities in the country that collectively will provide STEM scholarships for 500 students during the next five years. The Posse Foundation selected F&M and the other colleges each to receive $100,000 per year to help support full-tuition, four-year scholarships for annual cohorts of 10 talented students demonstrating interest and aptitude in STEM fields.

As part of his remarks, Porterfield cited some of Franklin & Marshall’s graduates who today are societal leaders in STEM: Dennis Cortese ’66, former Mayo Clinic CEO; Stan Dudrick ’57, who invented intravenous feeding, which has saved millions of lives; Alan Leshner ’65, editor of the journal Science and American Association for the Advancement of Science CEO; and Wanda Austin ’75, president and CEO of the Aerospace Corporation, the organization that handles all of the Pentagon’s space defense and much of the country’s space technology. The Bronx native attended F&M as a first-generation, African American woman and majored in math.  

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