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New Center at UC Emphasizes STEMM Education

CECH alumna Carla C. Johnson returns to the college to lead the new FUSION Center.

Date: 11/3/2008
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Ashley Kempher
Carla Johnson jokes that she wanted to be Bill Nye the science girl. She also speaks of the financial opportunities at UC that helped her pursue her master’s degree (2000) and doctor of education (2003) from the University of Cincinnati with a background in science and technology education – a pursuit that was achieved before STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math and medicine) became an acronym. As director of a new center at UC, Johnson is now leading the center’s mission of improving STEMM education from the earliest grades to the highest level in education.
Carla Johnson
Carla Johnson in the FUSION Center

Johnson serves as director of the Furthering Urban STEMM Innovation, Outreach and New Research (FUSION) Center in the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services (CECH). She is also a newly appointed associate professor of science education in CECH. The center has an advisory panel represented by faculty in STEMM disciplines from across the university.

FUSION has outlined the following goals in aligning STEMM with 21st-Century learning:

  • Prepare teachers so that they’re innovative, educational leaders in the STEMM disciplines
  • Develop and implement new programs from pre-kindergarten to the highest level of graduate education to both increase student learning in STEMM as well as increase the pipeline of STEMM students
  • Build collaborative networks and partnerships through outreach with other public schools as well as stakeholders on the local, state and national forefront of STEMM education
  • Engage in research on innovations in STEMM learning and teacher practice, providing effective STEMM learning to reach every student
  • Share findings and resources from STEMM education research to PK-20 stakeholders to improve policy and practice

Johnson is also fulfilling the role of UC’s presence along with more than 20 partners in the Cincinnati STEM Hub Partnership of the Ohio STEM Learning Network, an initiative to build student and teacher talent in the STEMM disciplines. The Cincinnati STEM Hub of education, business and community agencies is supporting the transformation of Cincinnati Public’s Hughes Center into an innovative high school to promote excellence in STEMM. Features of the new high school will include hands-on, inquiry-based instructional practices, a professional practice and demonstration laboratory providing professional development for teachers and college students in teaching programs, and diverse pathways to higher education and career opportunities including dual high-school/college enrollment programs.

FUSION is also following the restructuring of William H. Taft Elementary into a STEMM school that opened this fall, the first milestone in a collaboration – including Cincinnati Public Schools, UC, General Electric, Duke Energy, Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Apple, Inc., and the Cincinnati Museum Center – to build a PreK-16 educational pipeline to excellence in the STEMM professions and STEMM education. Students completing eighth grade at William H. Taft Elementary will automatically be eligible to attend the Hughes Center.


Johnson, who is also well-published researcher, returns to UC from the University of Toledo, where she was an associate professor of science education and director of a STEMM center. She grew up in McKee, Ky., and earned a bachelor of science in middle childhood education from Eastern Kentucky University. Johnson has taught science at two different schools in eastern Kentucky – a middle school and a high school – and had also served as president of the national middle-level Science Teachers Association following her pursuit on the graduate level of science education at UC. “I was able to get a University Graduate Scholarship during my master’s and doctoral studies here at UC, and without that financial help, I would not have been able to afford the opportunity,” she says. “I’ve lived the story of UC’s accessibility and in return, UC totally ignited my passion for making a difference in teaching science and passing that excitement and interest on to students.” She was selected as the School Science and Mathematics Association’s Outstanding Early Career Scholars Award recipient in 2006.

“Increasing our talent in STEMM education and in STEMM careers is not only a big challenge for teachers, it’s an issue that affects the community and the region, and it can only be improved through a collective community and regional focus,” she says. “We have a lot of momentum going on here among the talented faculty and FUSION at UC.”

The campus-wide advisory board for FUSION includes James Basham, assistant professor of teacher education (CECH); Amy Brass, assistant director, academic (CECH); Jonathan Breiner, associate professor of science education, (CECH); Gary Dean, associate professor of molecular genetics, College of Medicine; Bob Drake, associate professor of math education (CECH); Ted Fowler, CECH professor emeritus, visiting professor and co-director of the Southwest Ohio Center of Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education; Margaret Hanson, associate professor of physics, McMicken College of Arts and Sciences (A&S); Shelly Harkness, assistant professor of math education (CECH); Catherine Koehler, assistant professor of science education (CECH); Anant Kukreti, associate dean and professor of civil and environmental engineering, College of Engineering; Glenn Markle, professor of science education (CECH); Kathie Maynard, visiting assistant professor in teacher education (CECH); Helen Meyer, associate professor of science education, (CECH); Sally Moomaw, assistant professor of teacher education, (CECH); Mihaela Poplicher, associate professor of math education, (CECH); James Stallworth, a Holmes Scholar and doctoral student in math education (CECH); and Piyush Swami, professor of science education (CECH).

Johnson resides in Colerain Township with her husband, Deron, an industrial hygienist.