Writer: Adriana M. Chavez, 575-646-1957, firstname.lastname@example.org
Karin Wiburg, a New Mexico State University distinguished professor in the College of Education and math education pioneer, will retire this summer after 25 years at the university.
During her time at NMSU, Wiburg wrote and received more than $25 million in grants related to research and outreach in technology-based learning environments in math, science, literacy and English language learning. She participated as a principal investigator or lead researcher on five grants from the National Science Foundation, and in 2001 co-founded the Institute of Equity/Excellence in Math and Science Education with STEM Outreach Center director Susan Brown and then-associate dean of research Rick Scott. The institute promotes STEM teaching, learning, research and outreach, and invests grant funds into furthering STEM education. About $14 million in grants and contracts goes through 40 different organizations within the institute.
Wiburg also served as the principal investigator of the Math Snacks project, a collaboration between the College of Education, the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Learning Games Lab. The project has led to the development of online resources for students and teachers to learn difficult math concepts.
“Over the past 23 years Karin has mentored so many STEM leaders and researchers here at NMSU and throughout the region,” said Karen Trujillo, director of the STEM Outreach Alliance Research Lab and research faculty in the College of Education. “We want to be part of the legacy she leaves behind. She has inspired us to continue to do outreach to encourage students to excel in math and science. She is like the center of a wheel and we are the spokes. We will miss her very much, but she can trust us to carry on.”
Wiburg said she doesn’t plan on leaving higher education completely. She will teach part-time and continue her research work and project evaluation, along with working with a few doctoral students. She is also writing a book on closing the gaps in learning math in elementary school.
“It’s hard for me to leave since I’ve worked so hard for so long for technology and STEM education, but I am getting tired,” Wiburg said, laughing. “I hope to spend my time at home doing more writing, that’s my main goal. I leave our students with really good faculty, many of whom I have mentored for many years and I hope they continue to build on what we’ve done and keep it going.”
Wiburg’s love of math and science started when she was a young girl. Her father, a physicist, taught her advanced math concepts and allowed her to work on the earliest, and heaviest, versions of computers with him, such as the Osborne, the first portable computer.
“Girls were usually discouraged from that, but my dad believed in me,” Wiburg said. “I’ve been interested in technology for a long, long time. It holds my interest because it is always changing.”
Wiburg received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Washington in 1969, but her career in education began in 1971 as an instructional assistant and parent/school liaison in the Seattle Public Schools, and served as a Title I math specialist and administrator. In 1980, she received a master’s degree in educational psychology also from the University of Washington, and later went on to earn her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from U.S. International University. She completed her post-doctoral research at the University of California at San Diego.
Wiburg arrived at NMSU in 1993 as a faculty member in the Department of Curriculum Instruction. Within three years, she developed and implemented a master’s program in learning technologies both online and in person. By 1997, she had developed and implemented a doctoral concentration in learning technologies, which continues to have the largest number of doctoral students in the department.
In 2003, Wiburg and Brown developed a master’s program for teaching in science and mathematics, which has graduated about 140 students with funding support from the Los Alamos Foundation and a variety of agencies and districts.
“Karin Wiburg started the STEM Outreach movement and we will always be thankful for her friendship, guidance and wisdom,” Brown said.
Wiburg’s retirement is effective July 1.