Mary Linda Andrews
When Mary Linda Andrews joined the board of advisors of NC New Schools Board in 2003, the newly launched organization was just getting started with a handful of schools and STEM was a little known acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. She was drawn to the positive approach toward making a difference for students.
"NC New Schools always had a strategic outlook that was a little bit different but also complementary to the school process in North Carolina," Andrews says. "Initially they started out talking about rigor, relevance and relationships and how they apply those principles to ensure that every student is prepared for their future, whether that was university or industry training or work. For an organization to articulate that each of these students still needed the same 21st century skills -- including critical thinking, problem solving, working in a team, communication skills -- no matter what their future held is very important to what all businesses in North Carolina want for their citizens."
A decade later, Andrews -- who works as director of NC community partnerships for GSK -- still serves on the board and marvels at how things have changed.
"When you compare where these schools were when they became partners and where they are now, it's a powerful impact," Andrews says. "NC New Schools is in it for the duration -- it's not a fly-by-night program. It's challenging, aggressive work to offer the consistent professional development and long-term support to make real and lasting change for students."
GSK provided early support for the development of North Carolina's first STEM-focused schools, which during the last six years have developed into places of innovative approaches to teaching and learning and of real opportunity for students whose horizons might otherwise have been limited. Seven of these first nine STEM schools graduated more than 90 percent of their inaugural classes in 2011. NC New Schools now works with 28 STEM-focused schools across the state, each with a career orientation: health and life sciences, energy and sustainability, biotechnology and agriscience, and aerospace, advanced manufacturing and security.
"GSK's leadership for STEM education was instrumental in the establishment and professional development for those initial economic-themed schools," said Tony Habit, president of NC New Schools. "Their early support of STEM education, long before it became such a national focus, also was critical in helping NC New Schools develop an effective approach to STEM education that is being scaled statewide. They are a valuable partner to our statewide public-private partnership and to these pioneering schools."
As a business partner with NC New Schools, GSK has invested more than $1.5 million over nearly 10 years to support quality STEM education and professional development opportunities for teachers and principals. But the relationship between the two organizations goes beyond writing checks. GSK has hosted groups for NC New Schools' annual STEM Day visits and other learning tour opportunities.
"For any job, whether you're a teacher or something else, understanding the connection of what you do to the rest of the world and how it impacts people is so important," Andrews says. "At GSK, we've hosted teachers who come in and learn about our scientific process -- from developing a compound all the way through manufacturing and marketing a drug. We actually put them in a lab and give them hands-on experience to help make their lesson plans even more relevant. For a teacher to understand the whole process of what we do at GSK -- not only in science, but also marketing, project management and other roles -- it helps them make better decisions about what and how they are teaching."
The company also shared one of its own employees -- called a PULSE volunteer -- to work at NC New Schools for six months to prototype the health and life sciences-themed network of partner schools. Pat Mydlow, a clinical researcher at GSK, spent time researching local and national models and meeting with partners to determine the success factors needed in the NC New Schools economically-themed network.
GSK benefits from the partnership as well, as NC New Schools partner schools ensure that every student graduates with the skills to be successful.
"From a practical perspective, GSK needs a great pipeline of employees for the future," Andrews says. "Over the next 10 years as the baby boomers retire, GSK will see a large number of people leaving the company to retirement. For that reason, we need to ensure that organizations like NC New Schools are in place to work with the Department of Public Instruction to ensure that we have really great people with the skills to succeed, not only as scientists, statisticians and engineers, but also business majors and other degrees."
Andrews urges other businesses to consider partnering with NC New Schools.
"I would encourage any business looking to support an organization that statistically makes a difference to contact NC New Schools and go on a site visit," Andrews says. "When they meet the students and the teachers and see what's happening in the classroom, there's no way they wouldn't want to be engaged. The talents and enthusiasm of the NC New Schools gives GSK such confidence -- and the results are in the schools to show that it's working."
April Anthony, director of institutional advancement for NC New Schools, shares her own praise for Andrews.
"As a board of advisor, Mary Linda plays a key role in helping to define strategic priorities for NC New Schools," Anthony says. "Her passion for education as a former science teacher and a STEM professional shine through in her advocacy efforts with policy makers and business leaders."
Mary Linda Andrews is director, Community Partnerships, at GSK, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. She worked in organic chemistry and human resources prior to her position in community partnerships. Formerly, she was a teacher and banker. Andrews earned a bachelor's degree from Ohio University and completed management training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School of Business Administration and the London Business School. She is a recipient of The Old North State Award, presented to outstanding North Carolinians who have a proven record of at least 25 years of exemplary service and commitment to the state and their community. She was recognized for her service in K-12 education, focused on dropout prevention, 21st century skills, STEM education, and helping ensure that students leave high school ready for college, career, and life.
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