College Receives $1.2 M for STEM Education

College Receives $1.2 M for STEM Education

Friday, January 6, 2012

The need to improve mathematics and science education in middle and high schools is greater than ever before. Now, through a nearly $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Siena College students will be empowered to make a difference. During the next five years, faculty members from Siena’s School of Liberal Arts and School of Science will lead a project designed to recruit, certify and retain 21 high-achieving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors to become teachers in high-need middle and high schools.

“The NSF Noyce Mathematics and Science Teaching Scholarship Program at Siena College addresses a critical need for K-12 science and mathematics teachers in high-need districts,” said the grant’s principal investigator and Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Jim Matthews. “By improving math and science education in these schools, the program aligns with a key component of the Siena College mission to serve the poor and marginalized.”

The grant will fund scholarships and summer programs for participating Siena students who will graduate in three groups of seven beginning in 2014. Each graduate must complete a mathematics or science major. In addition, the math students will complete a minor in computer science. “They will take advantage of the strong computer science program at Siena and will be qualified to teach computing courses, including Advanced Placement computer science, in their high schools,” said Matthews.

Physics, chemistry and biology students will be required to do faculty-led independent research. "Undergraduate research is an important means of recruiting and retaining STEM majors and increasing the nation's STEM workforce,” said Professor of Computer Science, Physics and Astronomy Larry Medsker, Ph.D. "Sharing our expertise with future teachers in high-need schools is a perfect match with Siena’s Franciscan mission."

“The Noyce grant gives us the opportunity to arm middle and high school teachers with a background in scientific research, providing students in high-need communities with exposure to authentic science,” said Assistant Professor of Chemistry Lucas Tucker, Ph.D.

Participants will also develop the skills needed to successfully share their knowledge in the classroom. They must simultaneously earn teacher certification through Siena’s NCATE-accredited teacher preparation program. Starting in May, they will also gain practical experience by working in Schenectady City Schools. "We are looking forward to our partnership with Siena College," said Schenectady City School District Director of Instructional Support Alison Taylor. "We are excited about this collaboration and the opportunities that the program will bring to the teachers and the students in our district. These embedded teaching and learning experiences will prepare future teachers for jobs in math and science and inspire our students to pursue careers in STEM related fields."

On top of need-based financial aid, students selected for this prestigious program, including those from high-need districts, will receive scholarships worth a total of $40,000. The scholarships will be given during their junior and senior years at Siena. After graduation, the students will be required to teach in a high-need school district for four years. If they do not fulfill this requirement, the scholarships will be converted to student loans that must be repaid. High-need districts will be identified by the federal government and could include inner-city and rural districts and charter schools.

This program is the latest example of Siena College’s commitment to helping students develop skills that will prepare them for successful careers and enable them to contribute to their communities. “We are proud to pursue grants that bring together faculty to collaborate on research and programs that further their scholarship, inform and empower our students and improve our communities,” said Siena College Director of Grants and Sponsored Programs Sharon Finnerty.