UMass Dartmouth STEM research center gets new director on 10th anniversary

Dr. Chandra Orrill seeks to build on the late James Kaput’s vision of “democratizing math education”

Photo of Chandra Orrill.

Dr. Chandra Orrill, whose math education research has attracted more than $6 million in grant funding, has been named director of the Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in STEM Education at UMass Dartmouth. The Center is named for James Kaput, the late UMass Dartmouth professor who dedicated his life and research to “democratizing math education.”

“We talk all the time about the importance of STEM to the future of the U.S. and world economy, yet we continue to teach and structure schools in ways that use mathematics courses as gatekeepers,” Dr. Orrill said. “If a student cannot pass Calculus, there are very few options for them in STEM careers. If a student can’t pass Algebra, they are often completely locked out of college. Democratizing access to math and science is, at its core, a civil rights issue for the 21st century.”

Dr. Orrill was recently awarded a $738,337 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop strategies that help teachers make sense of compelling mathematical structures and patterns. Other major Kaput Center faculty grants include:

Meanwhile, Dr. Stephen Witzig heads an innovative program aimed at creating master teachers in STEM.

Besides the research being conducted, the Center runs the annual STEM4Girls day which brings 120 girls between ages 10 and 15 to campus to engage in hands-on STEM workshops and hear talks by women who are STEM professionals. The STEM4Girls event was May 20 with the next one planned for March. The Center also runs a speaker series that brings STEM Education researchers from around the country to campus to share their research.

More about Dr. Chandra Orrill

Dr. Chandra Orrill is an Associate Professor in Mathematics Education. She received her Ph.D. in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University and spent one year as an Assistant Professor of Educational Technology at Ohio University. She spent nine and a half years in the Learning and Performance Support Laboratory at the University of Georgia where she held adjunct appointments in Learning, Design and Technology, and Mathematics Education. She came to UMass Dartmouth in January 2010 to help launch the Ph.D. program in Mathematics Education and has spent the last four years serving as the Chair of STEM Education and Teacher Development. Her research focuses on how teachers understand the mathematics they teach. Dr. Orrill has been a principal investigator or co-principal investigator on 28 grants totaling over $6 million. She has over 60 peer-reviewed publications and has presented her work 130 times locally, nationally, and internationally.

More about the Center 

The Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in STEM Education was established in 2007 in the name of James J. Kaput, whose innovative thinking and leadership inspired many in the field of mathematics education. Center projects use innovative technology, unique course structures, and a variety of outreach approaches to reach the widest possible audience and engage them in STEM content in new ways. Center faculty teach a variety of traditional courses to teachers and future teachers, focusing on how math and science are used in the “real world” so K-12 students will have richer STEM experiences. All of this work aims to help the students of the SouthCoast be better prepared for college and STEM careers, if they choose.


College of Arts and Sciences, News and Public Information, Research, STEM