From an education professor to interim Associate Provost for Academic Programs and Services, Dr. Brian Gerber has gone through a variety of positions throughout his 23 years of employment at VSU. But now, he takes on a new position in life as director of VSU’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics Center.
On March 1, Dr. Gerber said he finally reached the place he belongs when he was officially dubbed director.
For Dr. Gerber, his foray into the director’s seat was his crowning achievement for his lifelong passion for science and education.
“I grew up on a farm and have always had an interest in nature and the way things work,” he said. “I also love learning.”
His love inspired him to obtain several degrees pertaining to both interests, including a doctorate in science education, a bachelor’s in biology, as well as general education, and an associate degree in applied science.
“My becoming director is only part of the payoff for that,” Dr. Gerber said.
But Jessica Pippin, STEAM’s administrative coordinator, felt that his love for helping the community was his main qualifier for the position, not his background.
“I can speak for Dr. Gerber and myself when I say the best part of our jobs is definitely interacting with the kids and watching the changes take place,” Pippin said. “Seeing that light bulb go off in their eyes, that moment they fall in love with learning about science or technology is so fulfilling. We love it, but he especially connects with them.”
Despite his recent induction, Dr. Gerber has acted as the faculty coordinator to the center for the past year. He’s already ushered in a variety of projects and workshops geared toward grade schoolers and community members.
“We recently had the first Science Olympiads this week,” he said. “We also recently had the Boys and Girls Club participate in a robotics fair a couple of weeks prior.”
Centered to VSU’s campus, the STEAM Center acts as a “catch-all” learning center pertaining to the arts and sciences. However, it does not hold academic classes for the university, according to Pippin.
Instead, the STEAM Center acts as a training facility and helps prepare teachers or students studying to becoming teachers with its Smithsonian and Project Learning Tree curriculums.
It also holds workshops for students K-12, provides presentation items for teachers and a lab for home-schooling parents.
The STEAM Center officially came to be in the 2015-2016 school year, moving in where the center for VSU nursing students used to be. Once the program moved to north campus, STEAM finally found a place to call home.
Gutting the building, Dr. Gerber said he used his say in the building’s architecture to make its interior educational for incoming children.
“We show the panels that connect walls, the insulation that regulates temperature and the pipes that house water,” he said. “It makes the students really excited and curious.”
Dr. Gerber finds this aspect satisfying, as it brings spontaneity to his and Pippin’s daily schedule.
“At any point in the day we’ll go from having about 100 kids running around here to it just being us,” he said. “It’s never consistent or easy, but that’s the way we like it.”
Pippin said it not only enriches the academic experience but helps with interpersonal communication as well.
With less than a week in, Dr. Gerber already has a game plan for summer activities at the STEAM Center. It includes a tentative science camp for elementary and middle school students, as well as plenty of more art workshops and competitions.
He and Pippin are optimistic for the center’s future.
“It’s my life,” Dr. Gerber said. “It’s all about giving back to the community and helping everyone to learn.”
Story and photos by Malia Thomas, Staff Writer.
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