Hi there! My name is Matt Mecca and I’m the STEM Growth Associate at NAU’s Center for Science Teaching and Learning (CSTL). This is my first VISTA term. Before VISTA, I graduated from Temple University in the Class of 2020 with a BBA in Actuarial Science and a minor in Data Science. I knew well before graduation that I didn’t want to pursue a career in insurance, which drove me away from Actuarial Science. It’s my interest in Data Science and community support that drove me towards VISTA and the CSTL.
At the center, I’m building capacity by constructing a knowledge management site to centralize information. This centralization will improve internal operations by enabling data-driven analyses of projects, events, and other activities. For example, a team member could use the site to answer such questions as To how many different schools has the CSTL provided over 20 hours of professional development in the last 10 years? or What percentage of educators that interact with the CSTL teach in Coconino County? These are important questions for the center to critically understand how effectively it achieves its mission. Further, the knowledge management site will allow for simpler communication of the answers to these questions to external stakeholders. A team-member will be able to develop visualizations which tell a story about the CSTL’s work, a story which can be shared with community members, leaders, and donors. All of these constituents are necessary for the sustainability of the CSTL’s goal of “having a deep and lasting impact on science education and educators in Arizona and beyond through innovative STEM partnerships, programs, services, and scholarships.”
Another project I’m working on is FEWSion4Resilience, or F4R for short. This project is looking at the Food, Energy, and Water Systems (FEWS) in states and counties around the US, but especially in Flagstaff. Specifically, F4R aims to build a network of citizen scientists who collaborate to improve community resilience and expand communities’ capacities to manage critical supply chains. For example, the F4R project can analyze how a fire-flood in the Dry Lake Hills or an earthquake which cripples bridge infrastructure will affect the distribution of food, energy, and water through the Flagstaff region. I’m really excited about my involvement in this project, and I’m already learning about many of the pressing issues concerning FEWS in Flagstaff; for example, I’ve researched the distribution of water supply between surface and ground water, the push towards sustainable small farms, and water shortages in the Lower Colorado Basin. It’s important to note that the issues touched by F4R are global in scope, applicable to any community interested in improving resilience. The FEWSion website can be accessed at https://fewsion.us.
These are high-level overviews of my projects, and I’m excited to provide future updates about my work! There I’ll provide more details that describe my progress and impact, as well as more about the work the CSTL is involved in as a whole.
When I’m not working, I enjoy hiking and birding around the Flagstaff area, as well as cooking as much as I can. So far my favorite hike in the Flagstaff area is the Kachina Wilderness, but I love walking the Lower Oldham Trail behind Buffalo Park, and Fisher Point is a great spot as well. My favorite meal to cook? That’s easy: eggplant parm.