Local & National STEM Experts

Lynn Dierking

Professor of Free-Choice STEM Learning, College of Science, and Associate Dean for Research, College of Education, Oregon State University. She is internationally recognized for her research on lifelong learning, particularly free-choice, out-of-school time learning (in after-school, home-, and community-based contexts), with diverse youth and families. Recently completed projects include two NSF-funded studies: Cascading Influences, long-term impacts of girls-only informal STEM programs; and, Pathways to Brighter Futures, with incarcerated Hispanic youth. Current research includes NSF-funded projects at Denver Museum of Nature & Science, focused on youth and family STEM literacy, and two projects at Oregon Museum of Science & Industry: REVEAL, investigating family mathematical discourse at math-related exhibits and Designing Our World (DOW), studying girls’ identities in relationship to engineering. She is also co-investigator on the Noyce-funded SYNERGIES project, studying youths’ STEM, creativity and invention interest trajectories in an under-resourced community in Portland and a connected effort, the Lemelson-funded Advancing STEM, Creativity, and Invention Learning through SYNERGIES project. Lynn publishes extensively and is on three editorial boards. Her awards include the 2010 American Association of Museums’ John Cotton Dana Award for Leadership and being an invited speaker in NSF’s 2013 Distinguished Lecture Series.

John Falk

Dr. John H. Falk, Sea Grant Professor of Free-Choice Learning at Oregon State University and Director, OSU Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning, is internationally acknowledged as a leading expert on free-choice learning; the learning that occurs while visiting museums or parks, watching educational television or surfing the Internet for information. Dr. Falk has authored over one hundred fifty scholarly articles and chapters in the areas of learning, biology and education, more than a dozen books, and helped to create several nationally important out-of-school educational curricula. He serves on numerous national and international boards and commissions and has been Associate Editor of several internationally prominent journals. Before joining the faculty at Oregon State University, he founded and directed the Institute for Learning Innovation where he oversaw more than 200 research and evaluation projects involving a wide range of free-choice learning institutions. He also worked as an early child science educator at the University of Maryland and spent fourteen years at the Smithsonian Institution where he held a number of senior positions including Director, Smithsonian Office of Educational Research. In 2006 Falk was recognized by the American Association of Museums as one of the 100 most influential museum professionals of the past 100 years. In 2010 he was further recognized by the American Association of Museum’s Education Committee with its highest award, the John Cotton Dana Award for Leadership. In 2013 the Council of Science Society President’s gave Falk their Educational Research Award for his outstanding achievement in research that improved children’s learning and understanding. Falk earned a joint doctorate in Ecology and Science Education from the University of California, Berkeley.

Heidi Ham

Heidi Ham recently joined NAA as Vice President of Programs and Strategy. She works to advance current work and to create and support new opportunities specifically focused on quality improvement, advancing professionalism, and strengthening state and local alliances. In 1996, Heidi started as a site director with Champions before- and after-school programs in Portland, Oregon, and later became a multisite manager of twelve . Since then, Heidi has served in various roles with the Knowledge Universe (KU) Education Department, working with sites across the nation and facilitating training for a variety of program types including science and academic intervention, coaching for continuous improvement, and developing tools and resources. Heidi is a Council on Accreditation endorser, a Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality Work Methods and Program Management Series trainer, and a National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference proposal reviewer. Heidi holds a bachelor of arts in social science and education from Central Washington University. She currently lives in the D.C. metro area with her husband, who also works in the afterschool field.

Anita Krishnamurthi

Anita Krishnamurthi joined the Afterschool Alliance in June 2010 as Director of STEM Policy after serving as the John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow for the American Astronomical Society. As Vice President of STEM Policy, Anita is responsible for creating and advancing federal, state and local opportunities and policies to expand resources and activities that provide students with access to a rich STEM curriculum in their afterschool programs. Anita brings nearly a decade of experience in science education and outreach to a wide variety of audiences to this role. Prior to her fellowship, she worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for six years, firstly as an Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Program Planning Specialist at NASA-HQ, and then as Lead for EPO in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Before joining NASA, Anita was a Program Officer at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. in the Office on Public Understanding of Science. Anita’s formal training is as an astrophysicist, receiving her PhD from The Ohio State University. She conducted her postdoctoral work at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Gil Noam

Gil Noam, Ed. D., is the founder and director of the program in Education, Afterschool & Resiliency (PEAR) at Harvard University. An Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital focusing on prevention and resilience, Dr. Noam trained as a clinical and developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst in both Europe and the United States. Dr. Noam has a strong interest in translating research and innovation to support resilience in youth in educational settings. He served as the Drector of the Risk and Prevention program at Harvard, and is the founder of the RALLY Prevention Program, an intervention that combines early detection of health, mental health and learning problems in middle school youth, and pioneers a new professional role – “prevention practitioner”. Dr, Noam has published over 200 papers, articles, and books on topics related to child and adolescent development, and risk and resiliency. He is the editor-in-chief of the award-winning journal New Directions in Youth Development: Theory, Practice and Research and onsulsts nationally and internationally to youth development, education and child mental health organizations, foundations and agencies.

Nate Otto

Nate Otto is the present Interim Director of the Badge Alliance, representing Concentric Sky, where he is Director of Open Badges. Nate focuses on the Open Badges specification and creating a cooperative environment where many businesses and organizations can build interoperable software to issue and deeply understand credentials across learning contexts.

Diane Smith

A life-long teacher, Diane Smith began her career as a play-ground monitor in fourth grade. Her 30-plus years of public school experience spans instruction at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels. An expert in the fields of curriculum and instruction, she shared her talents as a teacher, alternative school principal and Director of Curriculum for a large Oregon school district. She is the author of several reflective and research documents on proficiency, as well as It’s About Time, A Framework for Proficiency-based Teaching & Learning. Diane delivers college courses on such topics as administrator leadership, grading for learning in a standards-based classroom and student-centered practices. She is a passionate advocate for proficiency/competency-based education, presenting at national conferences such as Achieve, iNACOL, National Association of Secondary School Principals and ASCD.

Maryann Stimmer

Maryann Stimmer supports STEM education nationally through professional development and project and curriculum design. She is the architect of the Frontiers in Urban Science Education model used in sixteen states and the senior technical adviser on two National Science Foundation projects. Ms. Stimmer served as the chairperson of the Math Special Interest Group (SIG) at the Association for Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) and founded the STEM SIG at the National Afterschool Association. She also served on the US Department of Education’s STEM Technical Working Group and the National Science Teacher Association’s Committees on Informal Science Education and Science Education for Students with Disabilities. Ms. Stimmer is the recipient of the 2008 National Science Teachers Association’s Distinguished Informal Educator Award, the 2009 After School Experience Excellence Award and the New York City Reliance Award for Education. She has been named one of the National Afterschool Association’s 25 Most Influential People in STEM.”

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