The End of an Era: Dr. Silverstone to Retire as Finger Lakes STEM Hub Director

December 21, 2015

The Empire State STEM Learning Network (Empire STEM) officially launched its regional arm, the Finger Lakes STEM Hub at a press conference held during Science Exploration Day at St. John Fisher College on May 11th, 2012.

Dr. Sara Silverstone was instrumental in the founding of the Finger Lakes Regional Hub, and has led the Hub since it’s inception.  Dr. Silverstone will retire from her position as Director on December 31, 2015.

Dr. Sara Silverstone, Finger Lakes STEM Hub Founding Director

Dr. Sara Silverstone, Finger Lakes STEM Hub Founding Director

Dr. Silverstone holds a BS in Philosophy from SUNY Cortland and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of California at Davis. After 17 years of science teaching and research, Dr. Silverstone was appointed Director of the Rochester Area Colleges’ Center for Excellence in Math and Science in 2007, and in 2011 she began the process to connect this group, and our region, with Empire State STEM through the formation of a regional hub.

Empire STEM is a statewide, community‐led collaborative advancing STEM education to prepare all students across New York State for success in school, work and life.  The Regional Hub is our local network of STEM leaders from higher education, K-12, business, government and community organizations working together to leverage resources, create best practices and build awareness for and about STEM education efforts in our area.  The Finger Lakes Hub covers a nine-county area:  Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates Counties (source:  As the Hub has grown and developed, Silverstone has guided the hub through development of many programs, including the STEM Program Recognition Award program and Summer Professional Development training courses.

We asked Dr. Silverstone to reflect over her time as Director and to answer a few questions for us.

Why is the Hub important?

The STEM Hub is the only group whose purpose is to connect all of the fantastic efforts to promote STEM education in our region. It is a catalyst for collaboration and as such, contributes to efforts of those in K-12 education, higher ed, business and industry, government and community organizations. By collaborating we can avoid redundancy, cross-pollinate and share best practices across sectors.

Why did you want to be involved?

I first caught the bug when I was teaching Biology at SUNY Brockport in the 1990s. A group of us, including Ken Schlecht and Jose Maliekal, reached out to teachers and students in the Rochester City School District. We applied for, and received, a grant to bring them out to our campus for a couple of weeks for a summer science institute. My motivation was to share some of the resources of the college with our neighbors in the city who have higher needs and lower resources than we have. I thought maybe we could help. I have always been concerned about helping children out of poverty and into college and career opportunities.  

Over the years, I have found that approaches such as problem-based learning and contextualized learning have the power to engage students in the learning process, and literally change lives. Quality STEM education has the potential make the world a better place both by lifting up those who receive it, as well as by developing creative problem-solvers who know how to collaborate and communicate. Nothing is more rewarding than working towards these goals with like-minded, passionate colleagues, such a the members of the STEM Hub Steering Committee.

What is your favorite program that the hub has developed, and why?

I suppose if I had to choose just one, it would be the STEM Video Contest, where students created videos with the theme “What is STEM?” I loved how it involved so many different kinds of people.  We had teams of students from grades 3-12 from throughout our region, creating videos.  We had their parents and teachers who coached them and came to our awards banquet to celebrate with them.  We had volunteer musicians from ARC who serenaded us, corporate sponsors who enabled us to put on a wonderful event and raise some funds for the Hub,  STEM Hub members who gave many hours of their time and talents, and local celebrity judges and emcees. It had so many elements: students doing STEM and educating the public, engagement of every one of our constituencies, fund-raising and great PR, recognition of talented and hard-working youth, and a very rewarding culminating event. We still have those 19 videos on our website.

What are you most proud of over the years you were involved with the STEM Hub?

I am proud of the Steering Committee. We have been going strong since the first meeting, in 2010. For five years we have consistently had a big turnout at our monthly meetings, with representation from K-12, higher ed, community organizations, business and government. We have all gotten along without drama, operated on a consensus basis, and consistently attracted talented and passionate volunteers who get things done. We have stayed true to our mission and vision, and continuously attract new people who bring in new energy and perspectives to the group, but without rancor or divisiveness. I just think this is a terrific group of people I am proud to be a part of.

What are your hopes for the future with a new Director at the helm?

One of the areas for potential growth is increasing the involvement of business and industry. We are now poised to strengthen our relationship with some big companies whose resources can really help us achieve our goals.  I am hopeful that new partnerships with industry can help us achieve some sustainable funding and enable us to begin another cycle of strategic planning for the next several years. When I began, STEM was not a term most people had ever heard of. Now that it is a buzzword and everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, I see the Hub as being poised for growth. It is a great time for the new leader to take us to the next level.

Microsoft PowerPoint - Hub Launch Meeting.pptA search committee has been organized, and the process of appointing a new Director is well underway.  Stay tuned for a big announcement in January 2016 as we announce the new Director of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub.

In 2013, Dr. Silverstone founded Brockport Research Institute (BRI) to provide expertise in grant writing, evaluations, training, and project management to industry, government and private organizations.  After her retirement as Director, she will continue to expand the offerings at BRI while continuing her advocacy for networking and collaboration in the STEM fields.  She will remain an active participant in the Finger Lakes STEM Hub as we transition to new leadership.


Exciting new Incentive Program for NYS STEM Students

May 14, 2014

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced an exciting new Incentive Program for college-bound STEM students across New York State.graphic header

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of the New York State Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Incentive Program, which will encourage the best and brightest high school students to pursue high-demand, high-tech careers and build their future in New York. The program provides a full SUNY or CUNY tuition scholarship to the top 10% of students in every New York high school if they major in a STEM field and work in a STEM job in New York State for five years after graduation.  (May 6, 2014)

There are several eligibility criteria, such as an applicant must:

  • Be a NYS resident
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Be enrolled full time at a SUNY or CUNY college beginning with the fall term following his or her high school graduation
  • Be ranked in the top 10% of his/her high school graduating class of a NYS high school
  • Be matriculated in an undergraduate program leading to a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics at a SUNY or CUNY college
  • Earn a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 or higher each term after the first semester
  • Execute a service contract agreeing to reside and work in NYS for five years in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics. View the terms and conditions of the service contract
  • Not be in default on a student loan made under any NYS or federal education loan program or repayment of any state award
  • Be in compliance with the terms of any service condition imposed by a state award

For more information about this incentive program, please visit the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation website.  You’ll find all the details you need, including how to apply, and special details and restrictions.

The Captain Planet Foundation Educational Grants

March 3, 2010


The Captain Planet Foundation is an organization that supports hands-on environmentally themed projects for youth in grades K-12. Their objective is to encourage innovative science activities and to empower children from around the world to become environmental stewards. The Captain Planet Foundation strives to teach students appreciation  for our planet by becoming become active participants in environmental conservation.

Grants are available from The Captain Planet Foundation to schools and non-profit organizations that support students ages 6 – 18. The grants provide opportunities for students to learn about environmental issues and hone their creative problem solving skills  in the process. In order to be considered for the grants, proposals must:

• Promote understanding of environmental issues
• Focus on hands-on involvement
• Involve children and young adults 6-18 (elementary through high school)
• Promote interaction and cooperation within the group
• Help young people develop planning and problem solving skills
• Include adult supervision
• Commit to follow-up communication with the Foundation (specific requirements are explained once the grant has been awarded)

The deadline for the foundation’s next grant is  March 31, 2010. Other grant deadlines are June 30, 2010;  September 30, 2010, and December 31, 2010. The range of grants is $250-$2,500.  For more information please visit the grants page of The Captain Planet Foundation.

Environmental Education Grants

November 2, 2009


Environmental education increases public awareness and knowledge about environmental issues or problems. In doing so, it provides the public with the necessary skills to make informed decisions and take responsible action.

The Grants Program sponsored by EPA’s Environmental Education Division (EED), Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education, supports environmental education projects that enhance the public’s awareness, knowledge, and skills to help people make informed decisions that affect environmental quality. EPA awards grants each year based on funding appropriated by Congress. Annual funding for the program ranges between $2 and $3 million. Most grants will be in the $15,000 to $25,000 range.

Brockport Central School District was awarded with $4,849 in 1999. Many schools were awarded in the past few years.

Details of EE Grants Awarded in New York

The deadline for applying for a 2010 environmental education grant is December 15, 2009.

How to apply