On May 7, 2015, Americans for the Arts attended a STEAM Assembly in New York City hosted by VH1 Save the Music, a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring music programs in America’s public schools and raising awareness about the importance of music as part of each child’s complete education. Panelists from the worlds of education, the arts, business, and media came together to share best practices, personal stories, research, and ideas on incorporating the arts into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) based curriculum.
The panelists included Aetna’s Senior Director of Community Relations & Urban Marketing, Miguel Centeno, who explained that promoting “[STEAM education] takes a village, and businesses are an important part of that village.” He laid out three reasons why Aetna “fundamentally supports STEAM [over the STEM education model].”
- “We support the arts because it is a workforce development imperative."
- “We like to support things that we know work, because we like to make sure we’re making an impact with the investments that we’re making.”
- “We like to support things that are employees are interested in.”
Centeno explained that “Aetna is a STEAM company.” Their staff is comprised of medical clinicians, technologists, engineers, financial analysts, and also marketers, who he described as artists that are charged with creating an emotional response to affect decision making. In addition to hiring employees from each of the STEAM focus areas, Aetna also supports the arts internally through an employee jazz band and choir and through the Aetna Foundation's matched giving program. According to Centeno, last year Aetna employees volunteered over 420,000 hours in communities across the country and donated over $7 million to the organizations where they volunteer. The Aetna Foundation provided a partial match for those donations, which amounted to an additional $4 million in giving. “Many of the projects our employees themselves have selected are in STEAM,” he said. “We support [employee engagement with the arts] at every turn,” Centeno added, “because if we do that than we have a more satisfied employee. And a more satisfied employee is a more productive employee.”
“Aetna is no longer just a health insurance company" Centeno said. "It is a healthcare company that requires innovation and ingenuity in order to be successful." Aetna is helping to develop the next generation of innovators by supporting STEAM programs throughout the United States. One example of their efforts is a partnership with ArtsWestchester through which they have helped develop arts related projects, including a mural creation residency program. “We have seen time and again that [STEAM] results in higher test scores and lower drop-out rates, and the reason that that happens is because we are able to connect with that child on an emotional level,” Centeno explained.
Aetna is a 2011 recipient of the BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America. Additionally, Floyd W. Green III, the Vice President and Head of Community Relations and Urban Marketing at Aetna, sits on Americans for the Arts’ Board of Directors.