College of Education and Human Development
1st Annual Donna Sterling VA Science Educators Summit
April 4, 2022
Dr. Donna R. Sterling, who passed away in 2014, was a Professor of Science Education in Mason’s College of Education and Human Development. Dr. Sterling was also one of only eight Mason faculty members named a Distinguished Service Professor. She was a highly respected and admired member of the faculty and an international leader in STEM education.
Dr. Donna Sterling
Sterling taught at George Mason University for more than 20 years, where she served as the director of the Center for Restructuring Education in Science and Technology and the principal investigator for the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA). She was a pioneer in science education, and her research formed the basis for VISTA, a $28.5 million U.S. Department of Education i3 validation grant-supported program. Spearheading STEM instruction throughout the state, VISTA is among the largest U.S. federal research grants ever awarded with a focus on STEM education. Dr. Sterling was also the author of more than 100 scholarly articles, books, and reports.
Over the past years, Sterling's research garnered major funding from numerous corporations including Exxon, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Micron, and Dominion Virginia Power, and organizations such as the National Science Foundation, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Carnegie Institution of Washington, U.S. Department of Education, and the Virginia Department of Education.
Attendee introductions during speed networking
"Donna’s desire was to continue the leadership of George Mason University in the area of science education through innovative research to broaden the base of ‘hands-on’ science application throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia," says David Sterling, Donna's husband.
A $2 million gift from the Sterling Family Foundation was announced in 2014, at the conclusion of a symposium celebrating Professor Donna R. Sterling’s 21-year career as a pioneer in science education.
Group breakouts during speed networking
In 2017, the College of Education and Human Development was pleased to name Dr. Erin Peters-Burton the Donna R. and David E. Sterling Endowed Professor in Science Education. This endowed professor position within the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University is supported by a generous gift from the Sterling family that will provide resources to advance STEM education in Virginia’s K-12 schools as well as nationally.
Originally scheduled for 2020, but due to the pandemic was postponed until March 24-25, 2022, Dr. Erin Peters-Burton was able to hold the 1st Annual Donna Sterling VA Science Educators Summit at Mason’s Point of View, in Lorton, VA. The endowment allowed Dr. Peters-Burton to assemble 30 district-level science supervisors and science education faculty from all around VA to have an “unconference,” to come together to discuss and create an action plan for issues to address in VA science instruction.
Dr. Peters-Burton with attendees, Mason's Point of View
Five working groups emerged from the work done this March: Elementary Science Support, Preservice, Induction and Retention of Teachers, Science and Engineering Practices Professional Development, VA Administrators Supporting Science, and Science for All. These groups will continue working on their action plans made for this year and will meet again in March 2023 to discuss their progress and future plans. The Donna Sterling VA Science Educator Summit will meet annually to help support administrators, teachers and students in science education around Virginia.