Mathematics Motivator to be Honored

Pamela Clute, executive director of UCR’s ALPHA Center, is one of 11 recipients of state’s “Leading Women in STEM” award

Pamela Clute speaking during the Long Night of Arts and Innovation.

Pamela Clute speaking about the importance of mathematics education. Photo by Carlos Puma.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Pamela Clute, the University of California, Riverside’s assistant vice chancellor of educational and community engagement and a passionate proponent of lively instruction in math and science, will be honored today (Oct. 16) as one of California’s Leading Women in STEM at the California STEM Summit 2012 in San Diego.

Eleven women were chosen for this first-ever award by the California STEM Learning Network to honor leaders in STEM (science, technology engineering and math) fields from education, business and industry, policy, research, non-governmental organizations and governmental agencies.

Also honored was Susan Hackwood, founding dean of UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, who is now a professor of electrical engineering and the executive director of the California Council on Science and Technology.

Clute started at UCR as a student in 1967, where she earned her bachelor’s master’s and Ph.D., as well as her secondary teaching credential. She taught middle school and high school mathematics for four years before returning to UCR to work in 1976.

Since then, she has been instrumental in not only motivating thousands of secondary students to consider math and science careers, but in providing secondary teachers with engaging ways to teach math, and promote STEM careers with their students, said Gary Thomas, San Bernardino County superintendent of schools, who nominated Clute for the award.

“Dr. Clute has a gift for developing instructional strategies and professional development (for teachers) that truly impacts teaching and learning,” Thomas said. “She is one of the few professors who is not only effective at connecting with and teaching adults, but in inspiring and motivating students to reach new heights in learning math and science. She is able to make mathematics relevant and interesting to learners of all ages. I’ve witnessed first-hand how Dr. Clute can transform the lives of young female students by helping them to realize their potential in the STEM fields.”

Gordon Bourns, chairman and CEO of Bourns, Inc. technology firm and a strong supporter of UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering, said Clute also has an extraordinary talent for helping teachers show students how math and science are part of their everyday lives.

“That’s one of her passions, and why she’s particularly unique,” Bourns said. “She’s an outstanding teacher of teachers, a mentor. I love sitting in on her projects. Once she showed about 250 teachers how to make an oboe from a drinking straw. We learned the math involved in sound and music, and we all played a song with our oboes…..By using such clear examples, she’s helping teachers and students see how math and science are all around us, in things we take for granted.”

Bourns said Clute is particularly committed to reaching students in grades 3 to 5 and showing them that math and science are not just pathways to exciting, important careers, but subjects that are fun to learn in a classroom. He attended one of her annual teacher conferences several years ago and got so excited about a little motor he made in one of her workshops that he asked her to help him develop lessons he could share with students about the scientific principles that are the foundation at his company.

“Since that time Pam’s ALPHA Center has mentored and facilitated me and many other Riverside technology CEO forum members in going into classrooms to talk about their respective STEM careers,” Bourns said. “We have enjoyed the experience and believe we are helping Pam achieve her objectives to promote STEM in schools.”

In his nomination letter, Superintendent Thomas noted that Clute promotes STEM learning in multiple ways. “She is someone of vision who personally and professionally lives her life supporting the mission of empowering women in STEM and opportunity for ALL,” he wrote.

Her teaching evaluations (with scores of 6.9 out of 7) are testimony to how much students value her classes, said Thomas, but on top of her teaching duties, Clute is also the executive director of the ALPHA Center, which she began in 1998, “to champion her passion: motivating young women toward success in STEM careers.”

Through the ALPHA Center, Clute has secured more than $20 million in grant money to promote STEM education and careers with young female students and other underrepresented groups. The programs, including the National Science Foundation Athena Program, U.S. Department of Education ISIS Project and GEMS (Girls Excelling in Mathematics with Success) have involved 213 Riverside County schools, 11,825 teachers and 99,000 K-12 students.

Clute’s work was recognized nationally when she received the National Science Foundation (NSF) Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics, Science and Engineering Mentoring from President George W. Bush in 2004.

She also received recognition from the California Mathematics Council for Outstanding Service and Leadership in Mathematics Education and the Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Mathematics Mentor Award, for her mentoring work with 255 female students over the past 12 years.

Clute established the “Celebrating Women in Mathematics and Science” program, in cooperation with four Inland Empire community colleges, which invites about 800 high school girls and their teachers to consider college and careers in STEM programs, and she has won numerous awards for her community service and teaching skills, including the Distinguished Teaching Award from UC Riverside and induction into the Riverside County Office of Education’s Hall of Fame.

“Pamela Clute is a superb visionary educator and manages to devote herself to a multitude of causes benefiting teachers, students and parents, especially those from underrepresented groups,” Thomas concluded in her nomination letter. “She prides herself on being a mathematics motivator, especially to young women, by making mathematics relevant and interesting to the learners of all ages. She is a person of character, a fighter who believes in and supports powerful causes and an intelligent, competent, organized person who can put vision into action. She is someone special to the Inland Empire and most deserving of this recognition.”

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