Six students from CU Boulder got a peek at the policymaking process this summer as participants in the Colorado Science and Engineering Policy Fellowship program.
Rachel Bowyer, Christine Chang, Ryan Gomez, Briar Goldwyn, Carolyn Goodwin and Tehya Stockman joined a dozen STEM students from other Colorado colleges and universities for the selective program.
Students visit mining operations in Craig, Colorado. Photo submitted.
The fellowship was cofounded in 2018 by state Sens. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, and Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, who found common ground as policymakers with backgrounds in engineering. The program gives real-world experience to undergraduate and graduate students in STEM with the goal of increasing representation of scientists and engineers in government.
“We are working to create a new generation of science policy leaders who will change the course of our world for the better,” Hansen said.
Over the course of the program, participants received a crash course in state government. They heard regularly from speakers across government, industry, academic and nonprofit fields and rubbed elbows with Gov. Jared Polis and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse.
They visited several locations, including a coal mine and coal-fired power plant in Craig where they spoke with locals about how the transition to renewable energy is affecting their lives and community. They toured Lockheed Martin in Littleton and visited a data center in Lakewood, as well as a stop at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Each student also prepared a policy proposal on an individual topic ranging from behavioral health crisis response to wildfire suppression to the use of AI and facial recognition. They conducted research, met with stakeholders and spoke to politicians about the complex needs.
“I learned a lot about the different opportunities out there for STEM students to help ensure our state policies are informed by science and engineering,” said Goldwyn, a fourth-year PhD student in civil engineering. “I will definitely be following the next legislative session closely, especially as I wait to see which of our policy ideas actually turn into bills.”
Stockman, a PhD student in environmental engineering, said she enjoyed seeing how senators and representatives interacted with and gathered input from constituents. She said she was pleasantly surprised to witness numerous examples of highly functional governance and bipartisan cooperation.
“A lot of bills get passed because they are good policy, and a lot of legislators work to find common ground,” she said.
For the legislators, the program provides a glimpse into a promising future being developed by STEM graduates across the state.
“Over the course of my career in private industry and government the need for more engagement from the scientific community in public policy has become more and more evident,” Rankin said. “Working with the next generation of STEM students is a vital pursuit in the creation of a more sustainable future.”
Reflections from participants
Rachel Bowyer | Twin Falls, Idaho
PhD student, Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences
Christine Chang | Voorhees, New Jersey
PhD student, Computer Science
A subset of the group toured a solar farm in Longmont. From left, Rachel Bowyer, Briar Goldwyn, Levi Grenier (Colorado School of Mines), Ryan Gomez, Carolyn Goodwin, Vanessa Dunlap (Metro State University) and Anna Evans (Colorado School of Mines).
Carolyn Goodwin | Lakewood, Colorado
Mechanical Engineering (Western Colorado University Partnership Program)
Ryan Gomez | San Dimas, California
Briar Goldwyn | Camarillo, California
PhD student, Civil Engineering
Tehya Stockman | Michigan
PhD student, Environmental Engineering