Dr. Reagan Flowers (Ph.D. 2008) remembers well the day President Obama honored her as an African American STEM Champion of Change.
“Being honored by the White House as a pioneer in STEM education is one of the highlights of my career,” said Dr. Flowers, founder of C-STEM, the nation’s first integrated STEM enrichment program for Pre-K through 12th grade that focuses on implementing integrated STEM best practices into classrooms.
She certainly wouldn’t have predicted this success when she was a young child.
“I was labeled a slow learner. I was held back in second grade and promoted to fifth grade without knowing how to multiply,” explained Dr. Flowers. “Several caring teachers saw promise in me and started encouraging me and, thanks to them, I began to thrive. By my sixth grade school year, I made the honor roll and was described as a science wiz!”
This new-found confidence led her to a career in education, specifically as a science educator.
“I started my career teaching science. I wanted to offer my students hands-on experiences with real world problems. So, I started a robotics team. I was able to enroll the team in a national robotics competition, and they did very well,” said Dr. Flowers. “But the competition opened my eyes to the vast academic achievement gap between my students and their peers. That realization ignited a fire in me. I had to work to close the academic achievement gap and I had to change the way people visualize, conceptualize, and experience STEM.
The distinguishing factors of C-STEM pedagogy were integrating communications (literacy) in STEM to ensure students can read, comprehend, write, and articulate solutions to math and
science problems,” said Dr. Flowers.
As she set out, Dr. Flowers was not able to convince influencers to take her concept earnestly. She was told ”you’re just a high school teacher.” To be taken seriously, she had to achieve two things, first, be an expert in her area, and second, have the credentials to make appointments with decision makers.
She began to research schools where she could earn a doctorate. She credits finding Union with making her dream a reality and launching her career.
“Union listened to my idea to create a theory and action plan based on my childhood and professional experiences. They saw that I could write a doctoral dissertation that would explain my dream,” said Dr. Flowers. She was able to pursue her Ph.D. with a concentration in Educational Leadership Systems. She added a Specialization in Curriculum and Instruction.
“My Union degree validated me personally and professionally as an educator and researcher. I wanted to challenge the status-quo and Union supported my nontraditional research. But they also held me accountable. It was challenging to get accepted in the program and challenging to learn. Ironically, Ididn’t realize I was a nontraditional student, but I was. Union encouraged me and never put me in a box,” said Dr. Flowers.
You might say the rest is history.
She is the author of two books about STEM education. She was a finalist for a World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE) Award. She has been named to the list of 100 Women Leaders in STEM for her work towards bridging the STEM achievement gap impacting over 100,000 minorities and female students. Her philanthropic efforts have reached more than 42 countries with nearly $10 million in services delivered to underserved and underrepresented minority populations. She has led the cause to provide access to immeasurable information and economic opportunities.
She was recently appointed by the Houston Community College Board of Trustees as the Trustee for District IV. HCC has over 60,000 students and a budget of approximately 360 million. She is also president and CEO of C-STEM Teacher and Student Support Services, Inc. and serves as the Chief Knowledge Officer for Education Consulting Services, LLC.
She is thankful for her Union education and offers this advice to students.
“There are no shortcuts. You can’t rush it. Embrace the journey. Don’t get caught up in what other Ph.D. students are doing or did. You will earn this degree.” Away from her work, she enjoys cooking and the culinary experience. She loves to entertain and watch the reaction to the meals she has prepared. She and her husband love to travel and see the world.
But C-STEM is her heartbeat. As was noted when she received the Champions of Change Award from President Obama, her success is linked to three things: education, compassion, and an iron will to make a difference.
“I want to continue to inspire the next generation of innovators and thought leaders by engaging them in exciting hands-on projects, solving real world problems to encourage entry into the talent pipeline, bolster self-confidence, and foster a well-rounded mastery of the areas of communication, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
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