US President Barack Obama today named Ursula Burns , chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation, to help lead a national program aimed at honing students' skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The education initiative is expected to help the country sharpen its competitive edge in innovation and regain dominance in the technological revolution sweeping the globe.
The project will be led by Burns; Craig Barrett, former chief executive officer and chairman of Intel Corporation; Glenn Britt, chief executive officer of Time Warner Cable and Sally Ride, former astronaut and president and chief operating officer of Sally Ride Science, in conjunction with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"Companies like Xerox succeed through innovation, collaboration and the fresh ideas of our people. If we inspire young people today, we secure our ability to innovate tomorrow. Innovation is central to our nation's overall growth, to our quality of life and to our success in the global marketplace," said Burns, whose own personal journey from the classroom to the C-suite reflects the benefits and opportunities of a STEM education. Burns is a mechanical engineer who joined Xerox as student intern nearly 30 years ago and progressed through the company in a variety of engineering, product development and management roles. She was named president of Xerox in 2007 and became chief executive officer of the company on July 1.
An important first national step to improve math and science achievement, the initiative plans to broaden job opportunities and quality of life for more Americans. The team is expected to work at a rapid pace similar to the space race 50 years ago and focus on mobilizing the resources needed to raise the level of math and science learning for all students. The program will explore how new technologies, social networks and other resources can be used to connect teachers with professionals and companies and improve student performance in science, technology, engineering and math education.
Burns serves on the board and works with a number of institutions and organizations that are advancing STEM initiatives. Among them are the National Academy Foundation, MIT, and the University of Rochester. Burns is also a member of the advisory board for FIRST - (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization that, through robotic competitions, fosters student interest in innovation and engineering. Xerox was a founding member of FIRST and continues to support the organization today.
In addition to FIRST, Xerox traces a 50-year commitment to the power of education, investing in a number of programs. The Xerox Science Consultant Program is one of the longest running industry-education partnerships in the country. For the past 40 years, Xerox scientists and engineers have worked in the class room to make science fun for hundreds of thousands of elementary students.
Xerox has also invested several hundred million dollars in educational grants to fund programs and scholarships at universities and science centers throughout North America. Thousands of students have received educational assistance through Xerox's Technical Minority Scholarship Program.