When Yvonne Spicer ’84 M’85, Ph.D., started at SUNY Oswego, her degree program was industrial arts. The program name later changed to technology education, and the field continues to evolve.
So, too, must its practitioners, Spicer said. She gave the keynote address at the 75th anniversary of the Fall Technology Conference, an Oswego tradition that brings hundreds of teachers and administrators, most of them alumni, back to campus for professional development workshops and networking.
More than 275 attendees registered for this year’s conference—the best turnout since 2009, said Conference Chair Rich Bush ’92 M’97, a member of the faculty in the Department of Technology. There were 240 people at the banquet dinner, twice the typical attendance, he said.
A full house packed into the Sheldon Hall Ballroom to hear the keynote from Spicer, a former teacher and administrator who now serves as vice president for advocacy and educational partnerships for the Museum of Science in Boston. She is a highly sought-after expert and advocate for pre-college STEM education, and said she cleared her schedule to attend the
“This really is about the giveback for me, to come to Oswego,” she said. “This is the university that gave me so much, and I was deeply moved last night to see some of the professors and the people who have shaped who I am.
“I see you Dr. (Ronald) Sorensen,” she said, pointing into the audience. “John Belt, I saw him. Carlton Salvagin ’63. These are the people who deserve honor. These are some of the professors who gave me a tremendous amount of love and appreciation and encouragement. So I do what I do today because you helped me move the chains.”
Spicer’s address, titled “Keeping the Momentum Going: Changing, Growing and Prospering,” illustrated a large difference between the number of freshmen entering U.S. high schools and seniors graduating who pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and math.
Four million students entered ninth grade in 2001. After four years, only 167,000 pursued STEM. Along the way, students changed their majors.
The gap is particularly troubling, Spicer said, because STEM-trained employees are in high demand.
Successful events like the Fall Conference may help. Bush said the feedback from attendees was very enthusiastic.
“They really liked seeing the newly renovated Park Hall and our wonderful new laboratories and facilities,” Bush said. “It’s just amazing, with lots of feedback from folks wanting to come back and do the degree over because of all the new positive changes.”
In fact, Oswego’s blending of traditional industrial arts with modern technology tools helped Anthony Esposito ’13 find a job soon after graduation at a time when jobs were scarce, he said.
“If you’re just computer literate, and you don’t know how to use machinery and basic tools, I don’t think you’ll be able to produce a meaningful group of students to go out into the real world,” said Esposito, now a technology teacher in Cobleskill, N.Y. “That’s one thing Oswego does give you.”
Technology teachers are well- positioned to help today’s students see the value of a STEM-focused education, Spicer said. The key for them is to look ahead to what is needed in the 21st century and not to count on industrial arts as the way forward.
“We have an opportunity to take the lead,” Spicer said. “We’re good at a lot of these things that connect the dots. So I encourage you all, if you take one thing, know that you can make a difference, just as I talked about the professors who made a difference for me, each in their own individual way. I believe what I believe today because they gave me strength and encouragement, and I still have the momentum to keep feeling this.”
—Edwin Acevedo M’09
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