Edward Geary hired as new director of SMATE at Western

Edward Geary has been hired as director for the Science, Mathematics and Technology Education (SMATE) Program at Western Washington University.

Geary, who started at Western in January 2013, was hired following a national search. He succeeds George “Pinky” Nelson, who has retired as SMATE director.

“Professor Geary comes to Western with a wealth of experience and expertise well-suited for leading our continued excellence in science education within the College of Sciences and Technology (CST) at Western,” said CST Dean Jeff Wright. “His immediate past experience with the National Science Foundation has provided a perspective on the needs of our nation to refocus and grow our technical workforce in a manner that will attract, retain, and empower the science educators of the future. Under Ed’s leadership, SMATE will continue its record of scholarly innovation in this vital area.”

Before coming to Western, Geary was program director for the Division for Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings with the National Science Foundation (NSF), where he worked with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education programs.

Geary has master’s and doctorate degrees in Geology from Cornell University. He previously was assistant and associate professor of Geology at San Jose State University, director of Education for the Geological Society of America, and president of the consulting firm Earth Science Insights. He was director of the Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology Education at Colorado State University, senior science education program manager for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and director of the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program that is part of UCAR. He has written extensively for academic and science education publications.

“It’s exciting to be at Western and to have the opportunity to carry on the tradition of excellence and innovation that characterizes SMATE programs and faculty,” Geary said. “I am particularly looking forward to working with faculty, staff and students, not only in SMATE, but across the university and nationally to create and test new models for improving STEM teaching and learning for all students.”

CST Dean Wright thanked retired SMATE director Nelson for his service and contributions to Western, the state of Washington and science education.

“Professor Nelson’s accomplishments as director of SMATE have been extraordinary, and have placed Western at the forefront of science education innovators,” Wright said. “Pinky has set a very high bar, and Ed is enthusiastic about building on the strong foundation of this outstanding program.”

Nelson, professor of physics and astronomy, had been the director of Western’s SMATE program since 2002. A former NASA astronaut, Nelson led successful research-based approaches to improve science education and teaching. He also fostered successful partnerships with area K-12 schools, such as the North Cascades and Olympic Science Partnership, a collaboration with 26 school districts, Western and three two-year colleges, funded by the National Science Foundation. During his tenure as SMATE director, nearly $20 million in grants was received to help teachers and principals throughout the state improve science education, with better scores on science tests just one of many indicators of that success.

“I am excited that Ed Geary will be leading SMATE into the future, and confident that his vision and energy will raise the program to the next level for the benefit of students at all levels,” said Nelson.

The mission of Western’s SMATE program is to be a national model of the highest quality preparation of future elementary and secondary teachers; to participate in research and dissemination of new knowledge in science education and education reform to the university and K-12 communities; and to serve as a valuable science and education resource to the university and broader community.