STEAM-H Initiative Offers Collaborative Approach to Education, Community Engagement

University of Arkansas and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce finalized and signed a memorandum of understanding on May 4 to create STEAM-H. Representatives of each included Steve Clark, seated left, Jim Coleman, Todd Shields and John English; standing from the left, Eugene Sargent, Tiffany Dixon, Shilpa Iyer, Frank Jacobus, Raj Rao and Gary Prinz.
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University of Arkansas and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce finalized and signed a memorandum of understanding on May 4 to create STEAM-H. Representatives of each included Steve Clark, seated left, Jim Coleman, Todd Shields and John English; standing from the left, Eugene Sargent, Tiffany Dixon, Shilpa Iyer, Frank Jacobus, Raj Rao and Gary Prinz.

Recent reports have highlighted chronic diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes as important public health concerns. 

Shilpa Iyer, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, believes that poorly functioning mitochondria (the energy powerhouse of the cell), are at the core of these chronic diseases affecting energy levels in the body. Her research centers on bioenergetics, which is all about how the body creates, processes and uses energy. 

"We need to embrace a cell-to-society integrated approach to address these health concerns to increase awareness for improving wellness and bioenergetics of young children and families," said Iyer, who is focusing her research efforts on better understanding bioenergetics and mitochondrial disorders.  

But, Iyer said, in order to do so, we also need to create the next generation of researchers who can tackle these complex issues.

That's where the university's new STEAM-H — short for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Architecture, Mathematics and Health initiative — comes in.

Through support from the College of Engineering, the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of Entrepreneurship and the Honors College; faculty are collaborating with the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce to develop and launch a creative STEAM-H initiative starting this fall.

This initiative, with a dual purpose of public engagement and product development, aims to integrate student learning across multiple disciplines to ultimately tackle some of our largest societal concerns.

"We are so excited to announce the STEAM-H initiative," said Todd Shields, dean of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. "This is a unique collaboration that brings together the arts, humanities and traditional STEM fields — including science, technology, engineering and mathematics — to raise public understanding and help solve fundamental problems in human health."

"Through this truly interdisciplinary approach, STEAM-H students will simultaneously study all academic dimensions of major societal concerns," Shields said. "Additionally, the initiative will spread beyond the university community through our collaboration with the City of Fayetteville. For that opportunity, we thank the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and the Northwest Arkansas Fab Lab for being such wonderful partners in this effort."

Steve Clark, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, added, "Our goal is to promote Fayetteville as a city of innovation, character and ingenuity; and to establish partnerships that matter to our communities. In that regard, we are excited to make available our FabLab facilities to students and faculty who are spearheading the STEAM-H initiative. We have tools that fit different situations to help educate, innovate and invent; and thereby hope to create opportunities to improve lifestyle and wellness in our communities."

Through this initiative, students and faculty will actively engage with the FabLab and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce to create novel educational modules to teach and engage a wide audience for understanding a variety of disorders of concern to our communities.

"We are enthusiastic about partnering with units across campus and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce to promote the STEAM-H initiatives through project-based learning activities," said John English, dean of the College of Engineering. "This innovative educational approach will immensely contribute towards preparing our engineering students to understand and engage with students from multiple disciplines, while addressing important health issues affecting our communities."

"The partnership with the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce will play an important role in promoting innovation and business principles with empathy and a willingness to serve our communities," English added.

The STEAM-H program is being initiated in the fall semester through a project-oriented course that will engage honors students from multiple disciplines across the university. The initial cohort of collaborating faculty include Shilpa Iyer from Biological Sciences, Gary Prinz from Civil Engineering, Frank Jacobus from Architecture and Raj Rao from Biomedical Engineering.

"Simply stated, the STEAM-H initiative actively promotes student engagement, creative expression and scholarship, faculty mentorship and community engagement. It aligns very well with many of the campus guiding priorities focused on advancing student success, fostering cross-disciplinary collaborations and innovation in teaching and learning," said Jim Coleman, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

For more information about the STEAM-H initiative, students are encouraged to contact si012@uark.edu.

Contacts

Shilpa Iyer, assistant professor
Biological Sciences
434-284-2469, si012@uark.edu

Andra Parrish Liwag, director of communications
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
479-575-4393, liwag@uark.edu

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