The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) has appointed Meg Bates the founding director of the Illinois Workforce and Education Research Collaborative (IWERC), which will conduct research to answer the questions most important to Illinois policy and education leaders.
Bates joins DPI from the University of Chicago’s STEM Education center where she was a senior research and evaluation scientist and the director of digital teacher learning research. She earned her Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“We know that educators and policymakers are hungry for research that can help them make real-world decisions, and that’s what Meg is going to deliver,” said IWERC board co-chair John Q. Easton, former executive director of the Consortium on School Research at the University of Chicago. “We’re committed to asking practical questions and co-creating solutions that, once they’ve been tested, can be put into use.”
IWERC’s founding partners continue to make further commitments. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, which has been a foundational leader throughout the planning and creation of IWERC, has committed $400,000 toward this effort. IWERC’s total funding to date of $4.3 million includes this McCormick Foundation commitment along with support from the Joyce Foundation, the Steans Family Foundation, the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and two other anonymous funders.
“IWERC is designed to help answer critical and vexing questions tied to education and job readiness that will ultimately increase the competitiveness of Illinois’ workforce. We welcome Meg to DPI to begin advancing this important work,” said Bill Jackson, the executive director of DPI.
IWERC’s research will begin with the identification of “pain points” in the cradle-to-career pipeline in Illinois. From there, IWERC will identify organizations nationwide that have had success solving these problems.
“We already know of some common persistent issues: Providing high-quality early childhood education to all; maintaining students’ interest in STEM fields through the upper elementary grades; the academic transition to high school; dropping out of college, and promoting diverse learners’ participation in reskilling programs in adulthood,” Bates said. “What don’t we know about these challenges that we need to know in order to design effective solutions? Once we have those questions down, we’re going to answer them.”
The Discovery Partners Institute empowers people to jumpstart their tech careers or companies in Chicago. Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research universities, it does three things: Train people for high-demand tech jobs; conduct applied R&D; and support Chicago’s tech community. With state investment and a new innovation district in development, DPI has the resources to attract, develop, and leverage the most ambitious people and companies the region has to offer — and keep them here.