Beyond Astronauts and Engineers: Inspiring West Virginia’s Youth to Embrace STEM Regardless of Career Path  

Posted: May 14, 2018

Beyond Astronauts and Engineers: Inspiring West Virginia’s Youth to Embrace STEM Regardless of Career Path

I was thrilled to be at West Virginia University this morning to announce an exciting collaboration between Mylan and the university. Not only is West Virginia my home state, but it’s where Mylan was founded nearly 60 years ago. The city of Morgantown also is home to more Mylan employees than any other city in the world where we are located. The Mountain State is definitely a place about which all of us at Mylan care deeply.

There’s no question, the state has its share of challenges. One in four West Virginia children live in poverty. Thirteen of every 1,000 West Virginia kids are in foster care, and the state ranks dead last when it comes to children’s health outcomes. Despite the state’s true natural beauty (see Almost Heaven), these facts don’t paint a pretty picture.

So, what can a collaboration between a premiere researched-based university and a homegrown multinational corporate powerhouse do to help? Our answer is to develop an initiative to inspire the state’s children to reimagine their futures by true and meaningful exposure to Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) and encouraging them to be Curious, Active, Resilient and Engaged (CARE).

When I was growing up, kids who were interested in the sciences or math dreamed of becoming astronauts or engineers. But time has taught us that STEM learning is useful for everyone, not just future lab scientists. Its foundational, problem-solving skills are important for just about any adult who needs to manage personal finances or follow a recipe in the kitchen. 

I would also argue that we need to view STEM with a wider lens. As a business leader, I can’t go a day without leveraging math skills as I discuss corporate finance, talk to investors or consider new business strategies.

Enter STEM-CARE.

Our plan is to motivate West Virginia’s children to learn STEM principles and apply them to the challenges and opportunities that face the state here and now. For example, can old coal mines be repurposed for other uses or can we challenge where our food is grown with newer technologies like hydroponics? We’d like to make the study of science, technology, engineering and math as interesting and vivid as the imagination of West Virginia’s youth.

The effort will be delivered through the state’s 4-H program and WVU’s existing STEM outreach initiatives and give children in every county of the state the tools needed to think about these disciplines in ways they have never thought of before. As a company whose mission is focused on access and creating better health, we want to help provide opportunities for West Virginia’s children to embrace a brighter tomorrow and make a difference in their home state.

I’d like to thank WVU President Gordon Gee and Provost Joyce McConnell. Without their months and months of partnering, we would have never gotten to this point. I’d also like to thank national 4-H President Jennifer Sirangelo who has been a great source of additional thinking that, if successful, will allow us to potentially expand our efforts to other states.

But for now, we will focus on the wild and wonderful and encourage the great kids of the Mountain State to CARE so we can continue to do our part in bringing better health to a better West Virginia.