Cafe Parley is a new weekly series sponsored by CRU Cafe where we sit down with a Newport citizen and discuss a divisive issue they feel strongly about. Do you have a unique opinion on a local, state, national or global issue that you want to share? Send an email to with your thoughts.

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Mike & Beth Cullen

For our first episode of Cafe Parley, we sat down with Newport residents Beth and Mike Cullen on the patio at CRU Cafe (yes – outside! It was 54 degrees in January). Mike and Beth are passionate advocates for STEAM-based education, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering Art and Math.

STEAM is a movement led by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and is being adopted by institutions, corporations and individuals throughout the country in response to a climate of economic uncertainty. Some of the objectives of the STEAM movement are to:

– transform research policy to place Art + Design at the center of Science, Engineering and Math (STEM)

– encourage the integration of Art + Design in K through 20 education

– And influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation

Though the STEAM movement began here in Rhode Island, efforts to bring STEAM to in-state school systems has been met with opposition and setbacks in many districts, including Newport. Meanwhile, the new approach is being embraced and implemented rapidly by educators in districts in many other states. Beth and Mike Cullen feel adamant about bringing STEAM to Newport schools, but have faced many challenges in their efforts to rally the community and administrators behind the benefits and – as they see it –  the necessity of this new approach.

Why do the Cullens feel so passionately about STEAM? What have been the challenges in bringing this new approach to learning to Newport schools? Take a listen to find out.

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What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the Cullens? Take the poll and start the discussion below.

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For more information on STEAM visit

Author’s Note: The purpose of Cafe Parley is to spark informed, productive debate within the community. We welcome and encourage the the sharing of unique opinions and perspectives from all of our readers and listeners. We expect participants in the conversation to be respectful to others and use appropriate language. WhatsUpNewp reserves the right to moderate comments deemed inappropriate.

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