BizTimes Bubbler Executive of the Week: Joshua Schultz

Joshua Schultz, Ph.D., director of PLTW/Assistant professor and program director of MBA in STEM Leadership
Organization name: Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE)
Organization address: 1025 N. Broadway, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Website: www.pltwwi.org, www.msoe.edu 
Industry: Education
Number of employees: 5 – 10 PLTW-WI employees
Family: Wife, Katelyn

What interested you in taking the helm of Project Lead The Way Wisconsin (PLTW)?
“I am one of those people who always knew that they wanted to be an engineer. Stereotypically, I was good at math and science and passionate about bringing my ideas to life. I studied engineering at Milwaukee School of Engineering and Marquette University before becoming a structural engineer at Skidmore Owings and Merrill in Chicago (SOM). However, while working on mega-tall buildings at SOM, I realized that part of my enjoyment of engineering is associated with sharing my enthusiasm of the profession. When I heard about the opportunity to return to Wisconsin as the director of PLTW and STEM I immediately recognized the chance to combine my technical and ‘soft’ skills to help build-out a Wisconsin STEM network that includes PLTW.”

Besides your appointment, what else is new at the organization?
“In addition to director of PLTW/STEM, I serve as an assistant professor and program director for MSOE’s MBA in STEM Leadership, which is one of the first MBA degrees in the nation that focuses on introducing MBA concepts to teachers and administrators. This degree program is a great opportunity for teaching professionals to gather and apply hands-on strategies to implement change in their educational environment.”

How do you work to pique students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics?
“Through MSOE and PLTW, we provide year-round programming that impact upwards of 500 K-12 students and teachers who visit our college campus each year. In addition, MSOE has been a PLTW Affiliate since 2004 and we are one of the few Affiliates in the country to be the single point of support for all (Launch, Gateway, Engineering, Biomedical Science, Computer Science) PLTW offerings K-12.

“We deliver the absolute highest caliber service to PLTW teachers and students by training nearly 10,000 teachers. MSOE is the nation’s second largest training site and the fourth largest state for PLTW adoptions. Over the past two years MSOE trained 781 participants from nearly every state. Currently, there are more than 50,000 students involved in PLTW at elementary, middle and high schools in Wisconsin.”

How concerned are you about preparing the next generation STEM workforce, particularly here in southeastern Wisconsin?
“We take the need for STEM skills very seriously and every tactic and initiative that we undertake directly ties back to developing greater numbers of skilled graduates for Wisconsin. I would describe our ongoing efforts as working to develop STEM skills with ‘urgency but not with haste.’ In other words, we are strategically continuing to develop educational solutions to the STEM skill shortage while balancing the idea of quantity and quality of graduates.

“The importance of STEM graduates to our local, regional and national economic success is becoming increasingly realized by a greater number of stakeholders: students, educators, employers and government leaders. When I think about the good work that has been done alongside the inertia that is gathering around STEM education, I am pleased at the trending direction. However, there is still a long way to go in order to bridge the skills gap.”

What role should businesses play in priming the next generation STEM workforce?
“Industry partners play a vital role in developing the next generation of STEM graduates and employees. Industry needs to engage with education at all levels by partnering with schools and mentoring students and teachers. Awareness of this need continues to grow and more and more industry members are teaming up with PLTW-WI to reach students.”

What are your 2015 goals for PLTW Wisconsin? What are your long-term goals for the organization?
“Continued growth in the state. (We are predicting a 22 percent growth in PLTW training and pre-college offerings this year.)

“Improved engagement with industry leaders through our State Leadership Team by increasing the number of our partners and encouraging existing partners to help with statewide initiatives.

“Integrating STEM skills with entrepreneurial experiences to facilitate new generations of thinkers, innovators and small-business owners.”

Do you have a business mantra?
“Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?
“I have several influential mentors who have shaped my academic and business outlook. Bill Baker at SOM and Chris Stutzki and Stutzki Engineering have both shown me how a successful engineer and business leader can merge creativity with business excellence.”

What do you like to do in your free time?
“In addition to engineering consulting work, I enjoy distance running, hiking and kayaking – really anything outdoors. I also enjoy playing the banjo.”

More information:
Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the nation’s leading provider of K-12 STEM programs. PLTW’s world-class, activity-, project-, and problem-based curriculum and high-quality teacher professional development model, combined with an engaged network of educators and corporate partners, help students develop the skills needed to succeed in our global economy. More than 6,500 elementary, middle, and high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are currently offering PLTW courses to their students. For more information, visit www.pltw.org.

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