Together, they bring a wealth of experience and energy to APUE's leadership group and an obvious and deep commitment to equity, diversity, and Student Success.

Over the course of spring semester 2021, APUE searched for an assistant or associate dean of STEM Education. The new STEM Education Building and MSU’s growing emphasis on Student Success in the classroom necessitated Provost Office leadership in this space and funds were made available when several recently opened and unfilled positions were combined, allowing APUE to post a newly created, annual year, academic position. In consultation with Academic Human Resources, APUE has hired two campus leaders to fill this position.

Based on recommendations from the search committee (Jeff Grabill (Chair), Barbara Kranz, Thomas Voice, Kendra Cheruvelil, Kevin Walker, Korine Wawrzynski), and after consultations with partners across campus, APUE welcomes Dr. Stephen Thomas as the Assistant Dean for STEM Education Teaching and Learning in the Office of the APUE and Dr. Julie Libarkin as the Associate Dean for STEM Education Research and Innovation in the Office of the APUE.  They have already begun their official appointments. Together, they bring a wealth of experience and energy to our leadership group and an obvious and deep commitment to equity, diversity, and Student Success.

Dr. Thomas (he/him) describes himself as a passionate “community organizer” for curriculum development with over twenty years of experience creating curriculum for science communicators, museums, faculty, courses, programs, and publishers. Stephen has a PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Entomology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is a curriculum developer in the College of Natural Science at MSU; his work has been grant-funded and award-winning. Over his career, he has evolved from a traditional scientist engaged in disease evolution and insect communication research to an interdisciplinary curriculum developer focused on visual communication of science and visual model-based reasoning, but ultimately, he is interested in building consensus and communication between instructors to bring about programmatic change. Because of his background and interest in the visual arts, he has partnered with artists, game designers, curators, communicators, and videographers in addition to scientists to conceive and produce innovative curriculum design for STEM education. 

"Julie and I are excited to be working with the STEM education research and teaching communities here at MSU and to be working with each other again,” says Dr. Thomas. “Having this work connected to the STEM Building is also a unique opportunity to leverage location as a means of connecting theoretical and applied research to pedagogical practice."

Dr. Libarkin (she/her) is a Professor of Environmental Science at MSU and runs the Geocognition Research Laboratory, which investigates how people perceive, understand, and make decisions about the planet and human impacts. She began her career studying geology and physics at the College of William and Mary, received a PhD in geosciences from the University of Arizona, and was awarded a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education. Dr. Libarkin was a postdoctoral fellow and researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and taught for three years as an Assistant Professor at Ohio University before her move to Michigan State. Dr. Libarkin has led the development of the Geoscience Concept Inventory; co-led a study of tectonic uplift in Bolivia; generated new collaborations across the geo and social sciences to build understanding of ethics and mentoring across diverse groups; and served as external evaluator or researcher for a dozen NSF, NASA, or NIH-funded projects. Currently, her research focuses on model-driven research design, community-engaged research, and mentoring to address access, inclusion, equity, and justice in STEM and academia. She currently serves on the NASEM Advisory Board for the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. 

“This new role is an exciting opportunity for Stephen and I to collaborate together and work with the amazing MSU STEM education research and teaching communities,” says Dr. Libarkin. “MSU houses many of the top discipline-based education researchers and most insightful scholarly teachers. Together with the new STEM Building, we have an opportunity for MSU to further its position as a leader in STEM education.”

Please reach out to Drs. Thomas and Libarkin to congratulate and welcome them to their new positions and engage them in conversations about how the Provost’s Office can collaborate with you to improve STEM Education and Student Success generally at MSU.