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Sterling Bank Donates $5,000 to Mercy College Saturday STEM Academy

February 2020
A generous $5,000 gift from Sterling National Bank Charitable Foundation will support the Mercy College’s Center for STEM Education’s (CSE) Saturday STEM Academy, which provides elementary, middle and high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds with a program of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) enrichment led by distinguished STEM educators. With plans to grow the Saturday STEM Academy to serve more students and hire additional high-quality instructors, Mercy College and the Center co-directors are sincerely grateful for Sterling National Bank Charitable Foundation’s donation.

Launched in 2016 by School of Education professors Amanda Gunning, Ph.D., and Meghan Marrero, Ed.D., CSE’s Saturday STEM Academy is open to students in grades K-12 and offers active, hands-on learning addressing topics such as robotics, math, animals, coding, health basics and even 3D printing. Classes are taught by Mercy Faculty or local NYS certified teachers and are specifically meant to complement their regular school curricula, as well as deepen their greater interests in STEM concepts. “We want as many students as possible, from all backgrounds, to come to Saturday STEM Academy. That is why the donation from Sterling National Bank is so important.” Marrero said.

"We need to broaden the pool of people who go into STEM careers so that we have a diversity of perspectives solving the complex STEM challenges of the future. We need to improve access to exceptional STEM education for all children and engage them with STEM concepts when they’re young.”

Noted in Gunning and Marrero’s research evaluating the efficacy of the Academy, after a few Saturday STEM classes, students anecdotally have reported improvement in their science and mathematics learning and have come to value how STEM concepts can be integrated into diverse aspects of their lives.

Gunning and Marrero help drive the purpose of CSE, which is to create opportunities for groups typically underrepresented in STEM to engage in enrichment activities for learning, career readiness, enjoyment, and personal and community growth, which may not be available through school districts. Through an emphasis on teacher and graduate student training, family outreach, college-readiness and student engagement, CSE integrates STEM ideas into a child’s everyday experience, no matter their socioeconomic status.

Sterling National Bank Charitable Foundation is honored to help the Center build on its strengths and meet its objectives of serving more families, students and teachers, and developing children’s’ abilities to think critically, and make civic and social decisions that positively affect their families and communities. A trusted financial ally for businesses and communities in the New York metropolitan area and beyond, the bank’s philanthropic arm, Sterling National Bank Charitable Foundation, supports organizations and programs focused on increasing educational opportunities.


October 2019
The Mercy College Center for STEM Education (CSE) and ThinkSTEAM welcomed 166 middle school girls from high-need schools in Westchester County to participate in a STEAM-a-thon. ThinkSTEAM, a non-profit organization founded by a high school student and her mother, works to bring STEAM awareness to young girls Through the CSE’s programming for the day, the middle schoolers experienced STEM classes as college students do. Clad in lab coats, future STEM students spent the morning in workshops run by Mercy faculty members, Mercy students, and Center for STEM Education facilitators. The workshops focused on topics including Brain Barbies (neuroscience); Sports Engineering (materials engineering); Polyominoes: Geometric Explorations (geometry); Music Production (sound engineering); 3D Pumpkin Design (Makerspace); Exploring development of a chick embryo (biology); Build a Bath Bomb (commercial science); Marshmallow Challenge (structural engineering); Beyond the Bottle: Hydro Flasks – Not Just VSCO Girls (environmental science and chemical engineering); Is there Math in my Future Career? (math applications); and Microcomputers (computer programming). After lunch, students listened to panel of women in STEM careers describe the path to their job. The speakers were Aysha Williams (mathematics teacher in New Rochelle middle school and Mercy alumna); Sheila Narayanan (engineer); Audrey Russell (Verizon Business Tech Systems and Mercy alumna); and Bianca White (project engineer, Con Edison). The STEAM-a-thon was a great success as students connected with Mercy and, in turn, the College connected with schools in our local communities.

Dynamic Speakers and Research are Highlights of Mercy STEM Teacher Conference

June 10, 2019
In May, the Rotunda at Dobbs Ferry was the scene of a K-12 STEM Teacher Conference, hosted by the Mercy College Center for STEM Education and sponsored by Regeneron, a leading science and technology company in Tarrytown, N.Y. The event featured dynamic speakers, poster presentations and an exhibitor hall of local STEM providers.

Keynote speaker Dijanna Figueroa, Ph.D., a marine biologist and educator from Pacific Palisades, Calif., captivated the audience by recounting the setbacks and triumphs she faced as a woman of color in a white, male-dominated field. Figueroa, who is one of the world’s first black deep-sea marine biologists, is the director of the Lucas Scholars Program, a California community-based social justice and equity program designed to engage young people in science, engineering, design and art.

“We are grateful for Regeneron’s support in presenting this important conference,” said Amanda Gunning, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Secondary Science Education and Chair of Mercy’s Department of Secondary Education. “Their grant made it possible for us to invite a speaker of Dr. Figueroa’s caliber, and she has inspired us with her efforts toward creating diverse, inclusive and equitable access to STEM fields.”

Figueroa’s work on science documentaries, nature programs and publications have amplified her commitment to making ocean science accessible to all people. “Not all people have equal access to the pathway, pipeline and resources that make a STEM career achievable,” she said. In her travels around the country speaking to student groups, Figueroa was often approached by girls and young women who told her they had never before seen a scientist of color. “That’s when I knew that I can’t stay in the lab. I need to more visible. When I started working on films, I began speaking to a greater audience. I realized that my gift to planet Earth was as a science storyteller.”

Lisa Purcell, Ph.D., Regeneron’s senior staff scientist in infectious disease and scientific director for secondary education programs, also spoke at the conference. Regeneron’s many grants and programs reflect the organization’s commitment to supporting science education and research, increasing the effectiveness of STEM teachers and generating career awareness among students historically underrepresented in the sciences.

Dr. Purcell is actively involved in Regeneron’s science education efforts including the Regeneron Science Talent Search, high school research mentorship program, Westchester Science and Engineering Fair and STEM Teaching Fellowship. Purcell praised teachers of STEM subjects, encouraging them to be role models to all students, even those who may be unaware of their own gifts. “In my life there was a teacher. He’s the reason I’m here. You’re that teacher to someone,” Purcell noted.

“One of the goals of this conference was to start the conversation about bringing together all STEM educators in Westchester,” said Mercy Professor of Secondary Science Education Meghan Marrero, Ph.D. “Currently there is no local organization that can bring together educators from a diversity of disciplines to address the issues of equity and social justice in STEM education. By sharing resources and facing challenges together, we can help to enrich a wider diversity of students—right here in Westchester, where it’s most needed. Mercy is prepared to be a facilitating resource in that goal.”

Mercy in the Community

Summer Program Inspires High Schoolers to Become Future Education Leaders

September 2019
With an eye to the future of social justice, advocacy and education, Mercy College presented the inaugural Leading for Change Summer Institute, developed and led by the School of Education.

For the pilot program, which took place on the Dobbs Ferry Campus in early July, organizers recruited 21 high school students representing more than 20 high schools in New York and New Jersey. Participants were selected through a rigorous screening process that evaluated academic achievement, commitment to activities outside the classroom, and a demonstrated passion for advocacy, social justice and education.

The innovative program was developed by faculty in the School of Education with guidance from the School of Business. Spearheading the initiative were Mary Ellen Hoffman, associate dean for administration in the School of Education, and Teresa Quackenbush, a member of the childhood education faculty. “We based our pilot program on guidelines developed by the School of Business for its highly acclaimed Leadership Academy, now in its fifth year,” said Quackenbush. “Instead of seeking out future business leaders, we sought out future educators who want to make a positive impact on society through education leadership.”
Working in consultation with Eugenia Macchiarelli, director of undergraduate operations in the School of Business, Quackenbush and Hoffman led an education faculty team to plan six full days of programming on the theme of social justice and advocacy. The organizers recruited school superintendents, community activists, guidance counselors and advisors from area high schools, and arts professionals who encouraged students to effect change through the creative arts.

Each day was packed with team-building activities, educational field trips, workshops and lectures presented by a diverse group of speakers and faculty, both from Mercy and the outside community. Participants hiked up Bear Mountain to test their mettle through teamwork exercises and toured Harlem to explore its rich culture and history of advocacy. Classroom sessions offered inspiring talks and panel discussions with a variety of educators, social justice activists and people from the arts.

“We know that many high school students feel trepidation about entering college, so our initial aim was to begin forming relationships with students from high schools in the area,” said Quackenbush. “It allows them to see how much they can be supported and guided through their college experience, especially if they choose a place like Mercy.”

What the program netted was so much more. Participants blossomed under the warming influence of dedicated professionals and educators who wanted only to help them succeed in their quest to build a better and more just world. “By Friday, when we held a graduation ceremony and each participant gave a short speech, you could really see the impact it had on them,” said Quackenbush.

“In the School of Education, we take seriously our social responsibility to serve our community partners and to make a difference in our communities,” said Dr. Eric Martone, interim dean of the School of Education. “The Leading for Change Summer Institute was not only a way for participants to develop their own voices and learn ways to become advocates for change, it also allowed the School of Education to distinguish itself as a leader among its academic peers by offering such an impactful program for this group of talented teenagers.”

“We often think of leadership and advocacy as too big to take on,” said Quackenbush. “We wanted these young students to leave the Summer Institute with a new way of thinking about themselves. All week the presenters kept encouraging the students to ask themselves, what is my gift, my voice, my outlet? I hope this program enabled them to begin the work of finding out the answers, and using them to make a difference.”

Mercy in the Community: Mercy College Literacy Practicum

Once again, several School of Education teacher candidates kept themselves busy over the summer and came to the Cabrini Immigrant Services (CIS) in Dobbs Ferry for the Mercy College Literacy Program. Graduate students from the college enrolled in Dr. Barbara Keckler’s course, “Assessing and Correcting Literacy Problems Practicum in Early Childhood and Childhood,” came to CIS to help their students with different types of reading strategies. The School of Education teacher candidates attended class during the day and then came to CIS twice a week to meet with their students. They did pre-testing, reading aloud, comprehension as well as fun games that made the stories even more interesting.

The School of Education's Summer Korean Language and Culture Program is a Hit

August 2018

STARTALK, the Korean language and culture summer program at Mercy College, just wrapped up its second year. Held over three weeks during the summer, 26 middle-schoolers from diverse language and cultural backgrounds engaged in a program of learning about and experiencing Korean language, art, music and dance.

Co-directed by Drs. Mi-Hyun Chung and JungKang Miller, faculty members in the School of Education, STARTALK provides language practice, cultural connections and perspectives on traditional practices in Korea and America. The full-day program is offered free for up to 30 students with limited knowledge of, yet strong interest in, Korean culture and language.

Why offer a Korean cultural program for middle-schoolers, some of whom may have no connection or prior exposure to that country’s language or customs?

According to One World Now, a Seattle-based international educational program, Korean enrollment at four-year colleges nationwide increased more than 45 percent between 2011 and 2013. Currently, Korean is spoken by more than 70 million people worldwide.

Closer to home, word about Mercy’s STARTALK program has spread. “Parents see it as an opportunity for their children to learn a foreign language over the summer — something they will need for college applications and for life in a more globally-focused world,” said Miller.

“Foreign language programs at the middle- and high school level are generally not well-funded,” said Chung. “We provide an integrative focus on what we call the five Cs — Communication, Culture, Connections, Comparisons and Communities — that facilitates development of Korean language skills and understanding of Korean culture through student research and hands-on activities in Korean arts and crafts.”

While most participants have one or both parents who are second or third generation Korean, a fair number had no prior association. “Some came because they have friends who are Korean,” said Miller. One student began learning Korean on her own, and commuted from Manhattan to Mercy for the program. Still others, fascinated by the current musical trend from Korea known as K-pop, came to find out more about their idols’ home country.

“In our program we focus on both traditional and modern Korean cultural influences, and K-pop certainly fits in with that,” said Chung. “A positive association with a culture through any form, be it food, music or language, makes people more receptive. K-pop captured their attention, and now they want to learn more about Korea’s centuries-old traditions.”