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KNOXVILLE – Susan Riechert, a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has been appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to an advisory council that will guide the state’s efforts to improve science, technology, engineering and math education.

Riechert came to UT Knoxville in 1973 after receiving her doctorate in zoology at the University of Wisconsin. A Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Riechert is internationally recognized for her research in behavioral ecology focusing on spiders. She has been named a fellow of both the Animal Behavior Society of America and the Society for the Advancement of Science.

Riechert will be part of the governor’s Tennessee Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Advisory Council, which will help direct Tennessee’s strategic plan regarding placement of STEM initiatives and resources across the state. The council will help promote the state’s aggressive and comprehensive public education reform plan, which is part of the federal “Race to the Top” initiative.

Designed to spur improvements in state and local district K-12 education, Race to the Top includes a competitive grant program for states. Only Tennessee and Delaware were selected in the first round of the grant competition. Tennessee received $500 million to implement its comprehensive school reform plans during the next four years.

The STEM Advisory Council will oversee an initiative called the STEM Innovation Network, which seeks to promote and expand the teaching and learning of STEM disciplines in K-12 public schools across Tennessee. The Innovation Network is established as a project within the Tennessee Department of Education and will coordinate with local agencies on teacher development and curriculum. The state will also work with the Battelle Memorial Institute. The network involves K-12 education and the professional development of teachers.

“Our state has very important needs in student experiences, in the assessment of student progress and in the professional development of educators. These are areas that I am particularly concerned about and will be in a position to contribute to,” Riechert said.

Riechert has demonstrated considerable investment in K-12 STEM education as director of Biology in a Box, an outreach program that has provided more than 80 school systems sets of 10 thematic units of hands-on materials for science instruction. Riechert is also a National Academies Education Fellow and the College of Arts and Sciences co-director of the new VolsTeach program to improve the quantity and quality of mathematics and science teachers.

“Susan has an admirable dedication to the development of students and educators. Her insight will be a great asset to this council as we continue the enrichment and enhancement of the experience inside Tennessee’s classrooms,” said Richard Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

The STEM Advisory Council consists of the Commissioners of Education and Economic and Community Development, the chairpersons of the Senate and House Education Committees, a representative of the State Board of Education, a representative from the Board of Regents, five representatives from different industries in Tennessee related to STEM disciplines, two K-12 Tennessee public school educators and Riechert.


Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460,