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ODU Signs MOU to Support Instruction at Virginia STEAM Academy

Old Dominion University has signed a memorandum of understanding with a planned boarding school to provide instructional support in the vital areas of math, science and engineering to some of the brightest high school students in Virginia.

The Virginia STEAM Academy (Science, Technology, Engineering and Applied Mathematics), a public statewide initiative, is scheduled to open its doors in 2014, admitting 250 rising ninth-grade students every year to a residential school where they'll take a STEAM-focused curriculum, with an eye toward careers in science and technology fields.

In the agreement signed Sept. 1, ODU has pledged to support the academy by providing science, technology, engineering, applied math, health and humanities mentors to the academy students. ODU has also pledged to lend its curriculum-development and grant-writing expertise for the pursuit of opportunities that benefit both parties.

The Virginia STEAM Academy's high-ability students will participate in individual research projects at ODU and the academy will offer clinical experience for ODU education students pursuing their math, science or gifted education credentials.

"Old Dominion University looks forward to our future combined efforts on this important project. We are all very excited by the vision for the Academy and for the future education of the Commonwealth's brightest young persons in the science, technology, engineering and applied mathematics disciplines," said ODU Provost Carol Simpson.

The idea for the Virginia STEAM Academy was born out of the looming need for skilled graduates in math and science fields worldwide.

According to a report by Georgetown University, Virginia will need to fill more than 400,000 STEAM-related jobs by 2018. To meet the demand for more STEAM graduates, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has focused much of his education agenda on greater preparation of STEAM students, with a goal of granting an additional 100,000 post-secondary degrees in those fields.

The proponents of the STEAM Academy argue that the solution they propose - a public, residential academy for 1,000 9th-12th-grade students from across the commonwealth - will bring Virginia's wealth of education and high-tech resources together to provide a comprehensive, statewide approach to accelerate learning for highly able students. That will in turn attract more students to STEAM-related disciplines early in their school careers.

"The business community especially appreciates the focus on making sure our students are prepared for the high-quality, high-paying jobs of the future, especially in the STEM and health care fields," said Tom Farrell, CEO of Dominion Resources and chairman of Gov. McDonnell's Commission on Higher Education.

Through the memorandum of understanding, ODU and the Virginia STEAM Academy agree to work toward providing a unique, world-class science and math-focused curriculum to its students, mentoring the Virginia STEAM Academy's highest caliber students, and preparing future STEAM Academy applicants to attend the university after graduation from high school.

The STEAM Academy model has been utilized in several other states, including North Carolina, which founded its North Carolina School for Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) in 1980. The Virginia STEAM Academy is patterned after NCSSM.