ASU graduates find success in STEM field


Article by Maya Ramirez '15

Brandon Rodriguez

Adams State University Extended Studies alumni, Brandon Rodriguez 15 and Maria Chambers '14 have been successful in securing STEM employment with prestigious industrial leaders. They earned Master of Arts in Education Curriculum and Instruction with STEM concentration degrees.

After an extended national search, NASA recently hired Rodriguez, a native of Lethbridge Alberta, Canada, as NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Education Specialist in Pasadena, California. Rodriguez will be leaving his science classroom in Houston to take the position at the end of the school year. His job entails "a partnership between NASA and Texas State University aimed at bringing quality science programs to minority serving schools."

Rodriguez chose Adams State to pursue his master's, because of "the Endeavor Program for science teachers." He encourages future teachers to "learn as many sides of the trade as you can: from a technical content perspective, to the classroom mechanics, to the curriculum design. Education is such a complex machine and to be successful you need to have a diverse skill set."

Rodriguez plans on continuing as a curriculum resource for empowering teachers. "I have a content knowledge and passion for science that rivals many of our current classroom teachers. If I can be any part of bringing that into the classroom and equipping teachers to share what I have, I'd be extremely fortunate."

Maria Chambers

Chambers has been working for NASA for three years. She worked at NASA Johnson Space Center for two years as an education specialist working with high school and community college programs and now works at NASA Ames Research Center as an Educator Professional Development Specialist working mostly with teachers.

"The ASU Extended Studies program prepared me for success in my current field because I was able to take more STEM courses that help me with training educators on NASA resources," Chambers said.

Chambers chose the online program because after being selected for the NASA Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Program and completed the STEM courses through them. They informed us about finishing the master's through Adams State and I thought it was a great opportunity to further my studies."

"The online courses through Adams State were organized and the professors were very helpful. I think it was a quality education for my master's," Chambers added. "It was a great online learning community.

Laura Kitagawa, a current Adams State Extended Studies Master of Arts in education curriculum and instruction with STEM concentration/Endeavor STEM certificate program student, was published by NSTA, Made for the Shade: A creative task engages kindergarteners in building protective structures for UV-sensitive lizards. Her work is now integrated into the Next Generation Science Standards in the form of exemplars.

After attending the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference in Chicago, IL in the spring of 2015, Kitawaga was inspired to write an article for Science & Children magazine, NSTA's journal for elementary school teachers.

"Over the next few months, I worked on an article titled "Made for the Shade" about a solar energy unit that I do with my kindergarten students." The article was published in the January 2016 issue.

As a result of this publication, Kitawaga was asked to present this unit during the Elementary Extravaganza of the 2016 NSTA Conference in Nashville, Tenn. this spring.

She will finish the online program this August. Kitawaga believes the program is helping her with current employment, as well as preparing her for any future employment opportunities. Currently, she works part-time as a K-2 science enrichment teacher and 6-8 science elective teacher at Almaden Country School, a private K-8 school in San Jose, Calif. Kitagawa also work part-time as a STEM curriculum developer for zSpace, a high tech company in Sunnyvale that provides 3D virtual reality for the classroom.

According to Kitagawa, the content of the Adams State Extended Studies master's program is relevant and beneficial for both of her current jobs. "I am able to immediately apply many of the concepts from the education research and psych of teaching and learning classes in my current lessons. The master's degree will also provide me with the knowledge and experience necessary to open up new doors and new career opportunities."