Tennessee Tech University’s Millard Oakley STEM Center for the Teaching and Learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is brimming with exciting news.
After serving in an interim capacity since 2009 at TTU’s Millard Oakley STEM Center, Sally Pardue has been officially confirmed as the director of the year-old, cutting-edge educational facility.
Pardue’s education, background, inspiration and vision make her perfectly suited to lead the Millard Oakley STEM Center, its programs and resources.
“Under Sally’s leadership, we’ve opened the STEM Center and laid the foundation for excelling in STEM education and outreach,” said TTU President Bob Bell. “Her experience and energy will allow the university to respond to the region’s need to inspire students at young ages to pursue interests and careers in STEM-related fields.”
Pardue, a graduate of Hickman County High School, grew up in Centerville, Tenn. She was encouraged by admissions counselor Jim Gray to attend Tennessee Tech University in 1985. Pardue received a four-year scholarship to TTU, choosing to major in mechanical engineering. She received her bachelor’s degree in 1989, followed by a master’s degree in ’91 with Sastry Munukutla, and a doctorate in ‘95 with Richard Houghton.
As a student Pardue wanted to work for NASA and in 1987 she was awarded a competitive co-op position at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., working in systems and engineering test labs. She won the Tennessee Eastman Graduate Student Fellowship and participated in a Tennessee Department of Transportation bridge integrity project.
After earning her doctorate, Pardue joined the research and development staff of TTU’s Center for Manufacturing Research for four years. She then began teaching as a part-time adjunct faculty member until she was hired to a tenure-track position in mechanical engineering in 1999. Pardue was promoted to associate professor in 2004.
In 2005, she represented the College of Engineering as a member of university-wide committee comprised of faculty and administrators to study and design models of what STEM-education could look like at TTU based on visits to other STEM sites nationally.
“Having a facility like the Millard Oakley STEM Center available to educators and students of all ages is an extraordinary resource,” said Pardue. “I also have the honor of working in partnership with TTU’s talented faculty and experts to develop and deliver these exciting and engaging programs to our region.
“With three great kids of my own, I have always been fascinated with how they absorb and retain knowledge – those experiences created a great interest in knowing more about how all ages learn and develop,” continued Pardue. “I look at STEM-education in Tennessee as a personal mission – if you can make a difference, you must act on it.
“Using the resources available through the STEM Center we can uncover what kids are passionate about and how we can best deliver content to inspire their futures.”
The programs offered by the Millard Oakley STEM Center respond to the needs of teachers and students (from preschool through college) via training, hands-on workshops, and educational research in STEM subjects. Community and family activities are also available.