Carol O'Donnell

Professional Title
About Me (Bio)
Dr. Carol O’Donnell is Senior Executive and Director of Smithsonian Science Education Center, dedicated to transforming K-12 Education through Science™ in collaboration with communities across the globe. As a first-born inner-city college student on financial aid, Carol quickly realized the impact of education in promoting economic mobility. Since then, she has made education her life’s work, tirelessly working for George Washington University, the US Department of Education, and Smithsonian to improve diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion of persons excluded from education opportunities because of gender, ethnicity, race, ability, geography, sexual identity, or socio-economic status. Carol believes in the power of partnerships to promote equity. Along with her Smithsonian colleagues Dr. Amy D’Amico and Dr. Hyunju Lee, and in partnership with Howard University, Carol is the PI on an NSF INCLUDES planning grant, which builds on a public-private partnership between Smithsonian and Shell to support school districts as they diversify the K-12 STEM teaching workforce. With Horizon Greater Washington, and support from Ofinno, Carol and her team provide summer STEM programming to reduce the summer skills gap for DC students. Through Johnson & Johnson’s WiSTEM2D initiative, she promotes girls’ interest in STEM to prepare them for the future workforce. And with General Motors and the Smithsonian Office of Accessibility, she and her team engage with DC teachers to develop and implement strategies that integrate inclusive/universal design practices into K-12 STEM classrooms, so that all students, no matter their ability level, can see STEM as accessible to them. (Carol’s husband was a special education teacher for 30 years.) Carol is proud to direct SSEC and serve the Smithsonian family (in addition to her own family of 6), working each day to fulfill Secretary Lonnie Bunch’s vision to promote diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion in K-12 education.
Smithsonian Institution

The goal of this planning grant is to explicitly focus on broadening participation in the K-12 STEM teaching workforce, with the theory of action that diversifying the K-12 STEM teaching workforce would in the long term help more students see STEM as accessible to them and then be more likely to choose a STEM degree or career.