During the past four years SFAz developed significant Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education programs in seven major school districts throughout Arizona with major funding from the Helios Foundation. In addition, SFAz formed a partnership with Grand Canyon University and Code.Org. to grow student populations with more and better computer skills and literacy. And, with support from the State of Arizona and the National Science Foundation (NSF), very significant STEM pathway programs have been established in eight Arizona Community Colleges and in other Community Colleges around the country. SFAz staff developed on-line STEM guides that are used throughout the state and country, and their effectiveness in helping to define and develop high quality STEM programs has been validated and recognized. SFAz has led in catalyzing development of robotic clubs and after school coding teams. More recently, SFAz developed and trained 200 teachers in introductory coding, and helped to develop computer science pathway programs to build a cadre of students for the new Phoenix Coding academy. And with support from NSF, computing and computer science education initiatives originating with SFAz gave rise to strong new STEM partnerships at the three Arizona universities.
Faced with 21st century global competition at the highest level, in order for Arizona students to compete, the focus of SFAz education effort is significantly committed to systemic change and the expansion of opportunities to develop literacy in coding and computational thinking. Success in this effort requires innovative leadership of exceptional quality, great diversity, and depth and breadth of experience. SFAz is pleased that Dr. Luther Williams has agreed to accept the appointment of the Chief Education Officer of SFAz. He brings national and international perspective to guide these education efforts and elevate them to new levels.
Dr. Williams has a PhD from Purdue University and a distinguished career as a professor and researcher; dean and provost; professorships at Purdue, MIT, Washington University (St. Louis), the University of Colorado and Tuskegee University. He was selected by NSF Director Erich Bloch to serve as the Assistant Director for Education and Human Resources at the National Science Foundation to lead the pioneering effort to incentivize systemic change – an educational approach to STEM education that includes all essential teaching and learning components for all students – and improvements throughout the country. During his tenure in Washington, DC he also served as Deputy Director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences; chaired the White House Biotechnology Science Coordinating Committee, Council on Competitiveness; and led national efforts that focused on Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Education. These accomplishments notwithstanding, Dr. Williams is regarded widely for his ability to affect collective impact in STEM communities, advance a common STEM agenda and contribute to the AZ STEM Network led by SFAz.