Boys Scouts of America’s local council honors UMSL for support of STEM programming

Provost Steven J. Berberich accepts the Cosmos Award from Boy Scouts of America Greater St. Louis Area Council Ce

Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Steven J. Berberich (at right) accepts the Cosmos Award from Boy Scouts of America Greater St. Louis Area Council CEO Joe Sadewasser (left) and STEM chair Karen Vangvia (center) on Nov. 19 at the council’s annual Einstein Recognition Dinner. (Photo courtesy of Greater St. Louis Area Council, BSA)

The Boy Scouts of America’s Greater St. Louis Area Council recently honored the University of Missouri–St. Louis with its Cosmos Award in recognition of the university’s longtime partnership in bolstering science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs for scouts in the region.

“The university, from its leadership on down from Dr. Tom George, the past chancellor, and Dr. Kristin Sobolik, along with their staff have truly been an amazing team to work with and inspiring many scouts on STEM,” said Thomas P. Kroenung, the council’s director of program development, in making the presentation at the its annual Einstein Recognition Dinner.

Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Steven J. Berberich attended the event on Nov. 19 at the Saint Louis Science Center Planetarium and accepted the award on behalf of UMSL from Greater St. Louis Area Council CEO Joe Sadewasser and Karen Vangyia, a council board member and its STEM chair.

The evening also featured presentations to dozens of local scouts of all ages for earning Nova and Supernova Awards for completing various modules that allowed them to learn about STEM and explore its principles.

Berberich, who does not have a background in Scouting but who is a longtime professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, was delighted to witness the scouts’ level of engagement.

“To see the Boy Scouts providing so many different opportunities for boys and girls to participate in STEM is meeting the mission we need as a country,” Berberich said. “I’m excited to see this level of work.”

UMSL has played a key role in those efforts over the past decade and is continuing to do so today.

As Kroenung noted, the university was among the council’s first partners and helped establish its STEM University format, which brings Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to a college campus for full-day events to work with STEM experts and participate in fun, hands-on educational opportunities. They have opportunities to earn STEM-based advancements and Nova awards.

UMSL’s partnership in the initiative helped spawn similar STEM University programs at three other universities within the 63 Missouri and Illinois counties that make up the council’s territory.

UMSL will welcome scouts to campus for its latest STEM University event this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The scouts will have opportunities to participate in classes on such subjects as astronomy, aviation, chess, engineering, nuclear science, space exploration and many more.

“It’s part of our role in the community to provide these STEM days at UMSL,” said Berberich, who will be on hand to greet scouts at the beginning of Saturday’s event. “We host these Boy Scouts at different age groups to give them the opportunity to participate and earn their medals, but it’s also an opportunity for me to share with them my excitement.

“For me, it was rather late in my life where I got excited about the STEM field going to science fairs when I was in high school. This gives them an opportunity to explore STEM at whatever age group they’re at, and I’m going to really challenge them all to continue to engage in opportunities both in Boy Scouts and outside.”

Berberich plans to highlight some of the other opportunities UMSL offers precollegiate students to get involved and learn more about STEM.

UMSL has worked with the council to host other Scouting activities like Commissioner Colleges, Exploring Recognition dinners, Exploring Post programs and other enriching Scout workshops.

George played a lead role in establishing UMSL’s partnership with the Greater St. Louis Area Council and was a longtime member of its board. His affinity for Scouting started in his youth, and he advanced to the rank of Eagle Scout at age 14.

Sobolik is intent on ensuring the relationship with the Greater St. Louis Area Council remains strong, and she joined its board in August.

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