MiSTEM Helps Advance the UPCI

Chris Standerford, Director of Central U.P. MiSTEM, and the Glenn T. Seaborg Mathematics and Science Center

"I’m Chris Standerford, Director of both the Central U.P. MiSTEM Region, and the Glenn T. Seaborg Mathematics and Science Center.  Our mission is to be the catalyst for equitable access and engagement in authentic science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) experiences in every community in Michigan.  Further, one of our strategic priority areas is to elevate computer science opportunities across the state.  This is why I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to partner with the Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute (UPCI). 

Part of our challenge in STEM education is shifting the notion that the STEM subjects, and in turn STEM careers, are extremely technical, routine, and dry.  We also need to shift the cultural paradigm that suggests STEM is only for certain people.  STEM is an exciting, creative, and innovative space that benefits from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and skill sets. Everyone can find meaning in and experience success in STEM, because curiosity and belonging are at the very core of humanity.  In particular, in today’s world the T in STEM is driving almost every facet of our society forward, making problem solving, communicating, and innovating important across all sectors for all people.  Our physical and social structures are literally being rewritten, reinvented, and rebuilt.  Because the rate of change in each generation is accelerating, I'd say this is far from routine and dry work, and certainly not work for only a small percentage of humans to influence.

As Sir Ken Robinson explains, technology facilitates creativity.  It does so initially by extending our bodies and enabling us to do things that are otherwise difficult or impossible for us.  Secondarily, technology expands our minds, facilitating ideas that might otherwise be inconceivable.  One example cited by Robinson is the telescope.  This tool first allowed us to see new things and new details in the sky, later however, it was the single most influential thing that allowed us to reconceive the earth’s place in the cosmos! 

I see the role of the UPCI, and our efforts to elevate computer science and cybersecurity in Michigan as a similarly powerful example.  These fields are growing in virtually every job sector, which is a real opportunity for the Upper Peninsula.  As network systems and smart, connected devices continue to get more sophisticated, these tools will continue to expand our minds to new possibilities, new ways of learning, new ways of working, and new ways of living.  We need creative people from all backgrounds to help lead the way, while also keeping us safe in the connected world.

In the Central U.P., we are working with teachers to provide professional learning so they feel more comfortable and have more resources to bring computer science and cybersecurity learning to their students.  The UPCI continues to be a big partner in this work, both going directly to schools and bringing the teachers and students to NMU’s campus.  The hope is to support our rural region and small districts which typically don’t have full time computer teachers, to make getting started as easy as possible.  The UPCI and the MiSTEM Network are also leveraging grant dollars to support this work, including a mini-grant program through the MiSTEM Network to support individual classrooms in obtaining needed equipment, resources, and training. Finally, through a partnership with MiWorks!, we are creating apprenticeship opportunities for cyber related fields.  So whether you are a teacher, a student, a community member, or a business owner, and whether you’re looking for a degree, credential, work-based learning, or skilled employees there are a lot of opportunities to connect with the UPCI.  Again, I’m grateful our communities have access to this critical area of STEM that is going to help us build vibrant communities in Michigan for years to come!"


Chris Standerford serves as a regional director for the MiSTEM Network.  In this role, he works to connect, convene, and collaborate with stakeholders from business, community, and education.  The MiSTEM Network is uniquely positioned between the Department of Education and the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity in Michigan to support shifts needed to create a STEM culture, empower educators, and develop talent pipelines for STEM careers.  Additionally, Mr. Standerford serves as the director of the Glenn T. Seaborg Mathematics and Science Center at Northern Michigan University.  The Seaborg Center has a long history of working with local and regional educators as a professional learning provider, hosting outside of school time learning in the STEM subjects for students of all ages, and supporting the undergraduate teacher education students at NMU.  To fulfill these duties, it is imperative to be well versed in current content standards, pedagogies, and assessments.  Lastly, Mr. Standerford is the chair of the Career and Educational Advisory Council which works to connect business and education and informs the Upper Peninsula Workforce Board on key workforce development initiatives and strategies, including developing apprentice models that will support talent needs.

Chris Standerford