SUNY Oswego secures $1.2M to draw STEM students, workers to teaching

The National Science Foundation has awarded SUNY Oswego a five-year, $1.2 million grant for a scholarship program to help create a pipeline of science, technology, engineering and math teachers for high-need school districts.

Oswego’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Education worked together on the “Full STEM” grant and will collaborate to launch the science foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program at Oswego this spring.

Students, faculty talkingGraduate students in master’s teaching programs at SUNY Oswego would receive scholarships worth $16,000 a year. Undergraduate sophomores and juniors recruited for the program would receive $12,000 to complete their STEM degrees and any foundational coursework they need to prepare for Oswego’s graduate programs in STEM education. STEM undergraduates would also have opportunities for teaching and research internships.

Co-principal investigators Sofia Windstam of the biological sciences faculty and Jean Hallagan of curriculum and instruction picked up where an earlier $300,000 Noyce grant—to develop courses and curriculum, forge new school district partnerships and other supporting infrastructure—left off.

The program has a goal of producing about 30 new STEM graduates with an interest in teaching, and 30 graduate-level STEM teachers with state certification in adolescence education.

Recruitment of Noyce Scholars will aim at current undergraduates in STEM majors and at career-changers among those in STEM-related jobs, Windstam said. The program has strong sales points, she said.

“First, we often come across students very interested in social-justice issues who are asking themselves, ‘What is one way I can help others? Sure, I am interested in my own field. But I am also interested in education,’” Windstam said.

“Second, you can obtain a master’s degree essentially for free,” she added. “Now you’ll have a certification you can take nationwide” to teach STEM courses in secondary schools.

High-need schools

Each undergraduate would commit to two years of post-graduate teaching in a high-need school district for each year of scholarship assistance; the commitment is four years for STEM professionals recruited for an Oswego master’s program in adolescence education.

A Business-Higher Education Forum report noted that “there is an alarming shortage in our nation’s supply of highly qualified mathematics and science teachers participating in classrooms that serve our nation’s poorest and neediest students.”

Under co-principal investigators Martha Bruch of the chemistry faculty and Diann Jackson, a faculty member in the School of Education specializing in science teaching, the college used a Noyce capacity-building grant to set the table for the scholarship program. The college hired Nichole Thibodeau, a SUNY Oswego alumna and high school science teacher, as coordinator. Thibodeau said she came naturally to recruiting prospective teachers in STEM.

“I was beginning my junior year when I became interested in science teaching,” Thibodeau said. “There is a lot of support for teaching science on this campus.”

In its applications for the Noyce grants, the college cited a wealth of such support, from Rice Creek Field Station to Project SMART, from 20 years’ worth of collaborations with high school science and math programs around the region to newer initiatives such as the Global Laboratory and Possibility Scholarships.

“I think with a program like this that’s interdisciplinary, it really has been built by a lot of people,” Windstam said.

The program will emphasize retention, including support for new teachers while in the field.
Organizers are working on rules for repayment of scholarships as financial aid if students renege on the commitment to teach in high-need schools.

“You have to have the passion for both the science and education ... and truly believe in the social-justice principle that we have a responsibility to educate,” Thibodeau said.

PHOTO CAPTION: STEM teachers wanted—A five-year, $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant will enable SUNY Oswego to provide Robert Noyce Scholarships aimed at attracting science, technology, engineering and math students and mid-career STEM professionals to teach in high-need schools. Nichole Thibodeau, back to camera, coordinator of the program, talks with co-principals of the grant Sofia Windstam, facing camera at left, of biological sciences and Jean Hallagan, right, of the School of Education’s curriculum and instruction department, as well as student worker Vanessa De Los Santos, who assists Hallagan.

(Posted: Sep 13, 2013)

Tags: stem, science education, science