Deb Mumm-Hill is the Executive Director of Oregon STEM.
Deb Mumm-Hill is the Executive Director of Oregon STEM. Oregon STEM is the newly formed 401(c)3 nonprofit organization that supports the network of 13 STEM hubs around the state of Oregon. As Executive Director, Mumm-Hill is the communication link between the hubs, policymakers, and funders. It’s her job to understand what the hubs are up to and paint a picture of why they are important and necessary for the collective well-being of Oregon’s communities and economy.
Tune in for this episode as Mumm-Hill talks about how STEAM education and career-connected learning empower students and will supply Oregon with a home-grown talent pipeline of qualified professionals to keep up with the growing demand of STEAM-based innovative careers that will build the future for equitable economic prosperity.
Please describe your educational/training background.
My work has focused on designing innovative strategies and launching new programs that blend education and workforce development experiences, with a focus on STEAM pathways for P-20. Experience in building collaborations of stakeholders from industry, education, non-profit organizations, and public policy that address the immediate and future workforce needs by developing scalable programs that broaden accessibility, provide meaningful engagement, and support student pathways towards their career goals. I hold a BBA in Business Administration, and have worked for nonprofits for 26 years and in education (both formal and informal) since 2007.
Please describe where you work & your occupation.
Oregon STEM Executive Director. Oregon STEM ensures equitable opportunities for every student to become part of the innovation economy. Regional statewide STEM Hubs increase system efficiency by meeting local needs by coordinating regional partnerships focused on improving student career outcomes.
Career-wise, what have been your proudest moments/highlights/accomplishments so far?
I’ve been in youth development for 26 years creating immersive experiences, writing hands-on curriculum, and career exploration in liberal arts and STEM fields of study. Growing FIRST Robotics programs in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska was exhilarating. We grew from a few hundred students to 30,000 students solving challenges through Robotics in four years. When you grow a program, you have to chase money to bring it to students, and we were so very fortunate to have industries come alongside us and make the investment with not only dollars but by encouraging their employees to mentor students during the build season. In essence, we brought an industry-level internship into the halls of the schools and amazing things happened. Students were inspired, established academic identities in STEM, and showed motivational resilience in the classroom. The industry had access to youth and could start to build their future workforce while in high school. Teachers experienced immersive PD as Robotic Team Coaches. It was a triple bottom line strategy where everyone won. FIRST Robotics taught me the power of project-based learning, using human-centered design, and allowing students to solve a really tough challenge and proving to themselves that collectively they can tackle anything.
What are some of your future goals or things you would like to accomplish?
Creating equitable access for career-connected learning across Oregon. Right now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink what education offers and create a new, better normal that works for more young people. Everyone benefits when young people leave school workforce ready: students have what they need to be successful in their careers, schools make progress against the metrics they care about such as graduation rates, employers build stronger talent pipelines, and community economies are strengthened. To do this, educators and employers must come together to integrate education, learning, and career to ensure students leave school with the skills and confidence to thrive. We’re excited to have been selected as a winner of the Catalyze Challenge – a $500k award for increasing engagement with young learners’ journey to economic opportunity by connecting education and career. Through this support, we’ll expand and diversify our career-connected programming by removing systemic barriers and pay students to earn to learn while they discover their career calling. With 30 of the fastest growing jobs over the next decade requiring some level of STEM skills, we are opening doors and setting up all Oregon youth and communities for success.
What have been some of your biggest career challenges?
The entrenched education system. I love and honor teachers as they are amazing human beings. It’s the system that needs to shift, starting with the test/assess model. It’s time to move into transdisciplinary learning models, where schools blend the master schedule to incorporate problem-based learning that is collaborative. The student should be graded on their contribution, leaning in, showing up, sharing ideas, listening to others, and solving problems collectively. One of the tenets of educational equity is that we cultivate the gifts and talents of each and every student.
Today’s young people face no shortage of challenges in preparing for their careers. Our work is about meeting this moment by supporting innovations in career-connected learning that bridges education and career so that every student leaves school with a plan and with what they need to thrive. Educating a child is a collective responsibility where communities and professionals need to come alongside teachers. A child’s world is only as big as their family, school, or zip code can show them. It’s an amazing, big world out there and we need every student to find a path toward being able to contribute and be fulfilled.
Many young women might not be aware of the career available in STEM fields. What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in these fields?
Women need to connect with and mentor other women. We also have the opportunity to help educators understand current career pathways and connect the dots for students in the classroom. We hope to see funding in this next biennium for schools to incorporate robust career-connected tools that allow the creation of individualized student-centered approach by utilizing a pathfinding tool, like YouScience, which focuses on instilling a vision for a student’s future, purpose, and direction by connecting natural talent, skills, and knowledge with in-demand jobs.
Do you have any advice for women who are looking to follow in a similar career path?
Follow your passion. Many times we box in career options by a degree program. Today’s marketplace gives us the ability to crosswalk skills across industry sectors. If you have a passion to work in healthcare, there are so many pathways into that field. You can be a bioscience engineer designing the next prosthetic, if communication is your superpower, you can work in the public health sector or on healthcare policy and still be part of the STE/A/M economy. I encourage young people to conduct as many job informational interviews as they can to explore different industry sectors. Professionals love to connect with youth seeking their future pathway. Oregon Connections is a software tool that allows educators to help connect students to professionals in many sectors.
What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?
Hike, forage, cook and dig in the dirt.
- Oregon STEM website