Education, youth and the economy: Marathon Petroleum grant serves all three in North Dakota

Community News

Mandan, North Dakota, Foundation
Gateway to Science STEM new building with deck
The plans include a 3,500-square-foot wraparound deck addition.


  • Marathon Petroleum provided a $250,000 grant to complete construction of a new center for North Dakota’s Gateway to Science.
  • The new complex will give students and visitors access to a hands-on science center that promotes educational activities and reaches groups that are underrepresented in technically oriented job fields.
  • Marathon Petroleum is committed to investing in projects that promote thriving communities and workforce development.

Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC) is helping a non-profit science center introduce more youth across North Dakota to the knowledge and skills needed in the state’s growing career fields. A $250,000 MPC grant to North Dakota’s Gateway to Science (NDGTS) will go toward completing construction of a new, 43,700-square-foot complex that will substantially enhance the organization’s capacity to provide hands-on engagement with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for students from pre-school through high school.

Expanding with demand

The number of visitors to NDGTS’s current, leased space just north of Bismarck State College has more than tripled in the past decade. The new facility, being built across the Missouri River from MPC’s Mandan refinery, will have more than five times the gallery exhibit space to better accommodate as many as 90,000 visitors per year who are expected to be served at the science center and through its statewide outreach programs.

“North Dakota’s increasing career opportunities in agriculture, energy, health care and related industries make STEM education especially important to the state.”

“This grant goes hand-in-hand with MPC’s broader commitment to help create thriving communities where we live and work by supporting initiatives such as youth development programs,” Mandan Refinery General Manager Rick Hastings said. “North Dakota’s increasing career opportunities in agriculture, energy, health care and related industries make STEM education especially important to the state.”

The larger building will allow staff educators to expand successful existing programs, such as STEM Zone, Girls Engineering Week, Preschool Discovery Hour and Girls Who Code, as well as introduce new programs to reach groups that are underrepresented in technically oriented job fields. NDGTS will also have the capacity to offer multiple field trip workshops, after-school clubs or summer camps concurrently and utilize new technology to connect with outlying communities.

A roadmap to the future

The building’s hands-on exhibit gallery will showcase STEM-related jobs in high demand across North Dakota’s major industries, including positions that require two-year degrees, four-year degrees and graduate education. The aim is to help students, parents and educators better understand the required paths that lead to employment. MPC’s grant will make it possible to add a 3,500-square-foot, wraparound deck to the gallery’s south exhibits section. The new science center is expected to open by the end of 2022.

“The deck will look to the west toward our refinery, which provides a visual link, but we have deeper ties to this project,” said Mandan Refinery HR Manager Cam Thoroughman, who is also on the NDGTS board. “Our community roots as a long-time employer and the technical nature of our industry give us a special appreciation of the need for this facility and its potential to have a lasting impact on our state.”

Representatives of MPC’s Mandan refinery recently took part in a formal presentation of the grant to the science center. (Front row, left to right: Beth Demke, North Dakota’s Gateway to Science Director; Julie Stoll, Mandan Refinery HR Business Partner; Holly Jackson, Mandan Refinery Operations Manager; and Lesley Icenogle, North Dakota’s Gateway to Science Development Director. Back Row, left to right: Andy Huber, Mandan Refinery Tech Services and Engineering Manager; Ian Ladomer, Mandan Refinery Environmental, Safety and Security Manager; Rick Hastings, Mandan Refinery Manager; Tom Roman, Mandan Refinery Maintenance Manager; and Cam Thoroughman, Mandan Refinery HR Manager.)