Baker University awarded grant for development of STEM educators

Baker University was recently selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a recipient of the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship grant program. Over $1 million will be paid over the course of five years.

The grant provides opportunities for recruiting and retaining Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students to become elementary and secondary school teachers. The money will be utilized for scholarships, recruitment of students and other programs.

The grant was awarded after Assistant Professors of Chemistry Molly Anderson and Jamin Perry, Associate Professor of Biology Erin Morris and Associate Professors of Education Amy Wintermantel and Charlsie Prosser submitted a grant proposal.

Prosser explained that the choice to apply for the grant began from growing concern over the retention rates of new teachers in STEM fields.

“We believe this grant would allow us to contribute to making a positive impact on STEM education at multiple levels, while providing financial and personalized support for our Baker students,” Prosser said.

The goal is to graduate 24 students with STEM majors and teachers’ licensure in the fields of Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics over the next five years.

Interested students who apply for the scholarship and are selected to be a Noyce Scholar will receive an $11,000 scholarship rewarded during their junior and senior years.

Morris stated that the dispersal of grant funds will be a collaborative process between not only the department of science and the department of education but will also include the department of mathematics.

Moreover, Prosser believes the grant will have a positive affect on STEM education for middle and high school students with partnered school districts in the area.

An important aspect of the grant will be the development of mentorships between current STEM and education majors and alumnae.

“The focus of the grant proposal was to connect current Baker students with [alumnae] who are out there teaching at schools right now so that they can have this partner who can advise them,” Morris said.

Stipends from the grant will be used to develop the mentorship network.

Emma Carter, admissions counselor, assisted in preparing and submitting the grant proposal.

“The team worked on a submission for the Noyce program to submit in 2019 and unfortunately were not awarded. But, luckily the NSF provides feedback from the reviewers,” Carter said.

Prosser stated that the second grant proposal focused on COVID-19 safety protocols since most of the original programs were created to be in-person.

Carter explained that Baker University has invested in a firm that specializes in locating and assisting in applying for grants. However, the application process still involved a lot of meetings and work to determine what was in the final grant proposal.

“There is a lot of back and forth to ensure we can achieve the things we put in the proposal. The grant proposal is just the first step with a grant, once it gets approved then the project has to be implemented,” Carter said.

While the Noyce Teacher Scholarship grant focuses on the creation of STEM teachers, the grant also focuses on adding additional research into the reasons behind STEM teacher attrition in both rural and urban school districts and ways to address the issue.