His Big Idea: Yo-Yo Ma

A world-famous cellist lobbies to change the way we think about STEM.

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STEM (the acronym for "science, technology, engineering, and mathematics") is now ubiquitous in policy conversations, but cellist Yo-Yo Ma argues that it is off by one vowel: He wants to turn STEM into STEAM, with the "A" standing for "arts, culture, and humanities." He admits that this wasn't actually his idea; for background, read about Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda. But Ma did connect this mission to the broader experience of telling stories. "We all know that stories and narratives form the basis of who we are, what we believe in, how we act, where we come from, how we feel, and how others feel. When we tell a story using all of our senses, with touch, with our eyes, with our ears, with our experiences, with movement, we make that memorable. And then we become curious .... This is all in the service of creating a national imagination. And it all starts with turning STEM into STEAM."