Noyce Grants are Helping Build STEM Education Initiatives on Campus
CLAS and CU Denver are working in a variety of ways to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education on campus and to encourage students to consider teaching science and math as a career path after graduation. The Business-Higher Education Forum reported in 2010, "There are simply not enough highly skilled mathematics and science teachers entering the profession or committing to long-term careers. The United States will need more than 280,000 new mathematics and science teachers by 2015."
Training the teachers of tomorrow is assisted financially at CU Denver by several programs celebrating the legacy of Dr. Robert N. Noyce, co-founder of Intel and inventor of the integrated circuit, a critical component in the development of personal computers. In collaboration with the School of Education and Human Development (SEHD), CLAS faculty members have secured over $2.1 million in Noyce related funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) over the last three years. The Noyce programs focus on two areas—mathematics and science—and provide scholarships, mentoring, internships, and other opportunities for students considering a career in education. These programs recruit undergraduate or post-baccalaureate students with talent and financial need and prepare them to pursue a secondary (grades 7-12) teaching careers in high-needs local Denver school districts.
Rocky Mountain Noyce Scholars Program in Mathematics
In the spring of 2009, the first Noyce program was established at CU Denver: the Rocky Mountain Noyce Scholars Program (RM-NSP). It focuses on recruiting, training, and providing financial support for mathematics students interested in developing the skills necessary to become effective secondary math educators. The program not only offers scholarships from $14,000 to $18,000 (per year for up to two years), it also provides mentors on campus for participants as well as opportunities for classroom experience though a partnership with Aurora Public Schools (APS). Diana White, assistant professor of mathematical and statistical sciences is the Rocky Mountain Noyce program director and principal investigator.
RM-NSP has selected eleven scholars so far: (spring 2011) Steven Di Lisio, Brittany Pacheco, Adam Ruff, and Crystal Scharlott; (spring 2012) Monica Blomker, Ashley Lowther, Camron Schwoegler, and Chad Tritz; (fall 2012) Robyn Kinney, Evyn Hackett, and Anna Dienstfrei. The first cohort of scholars graduated in May of 2012, and all four were quickly hired as full-time math teachers within APS. Adam Ruff, from the first cohort, says, "I wanted to become a teacher to share my passion for mathematics and to help prepare future generations of engineers, scientists, and mathematicians." Now a full-time math teacher at Rangeview High School, Ruff says of his experience, "The Noyce program has given me the opportunity to work closely with some of the best teachers in the state. I also received focused support that I would not have gotten in another program."
Chad Tritz, from the second cohort, says of the experience, "The scholarship was a life saver for me in terms of funding. Because of this scholarship, I did not have to take out any student loans, which would have been a certainty otherwise. I feel that the multiple opportunities that both Noyce and Aurora Public Schools offered helped me become a better teacher. I worked with students ranging from grades 4 to 12, and learned about all of the difficult things that go into being a teacher." He recommends, "Anybody who is considering teaching should at the very least consider the Noyce Scholarship. It gives great teaching experience, helps build a foundation both with a school district and other future teachers, and it doesn't hurt to have the last two years of school completely paid for."
Promoting Undergraduate Licensure in Science Education Noyce Scholars Program
The Promoting Undergraduate Licensure in Science Education (PULSE) Noyce program focuses on science education, and its scholars are eligible to receive awards of $12,000 per year for up to two years. These scholars receive direct mentoring and support throughout their academic career and into their first year of teaching science. In May, the program awarded the first five Noyce Scholarships to Kaitlin McGrath, Emma McCourt, Rebecca Reilly, Hannah Tystad, and Eileen Yakish. Four in this first cohort are post-baccalaureate students earning their licensure through SEHD—because the Science Secondary Education program in CLAS was established just last year—but Hannah Tystad is a CLAS student and a senior biology major. Hannah says of the support she gets as a Noyce Scholar, "We hold a seminar series every two weeks in which we spend the time getting to know each other as scholars and there we get to know our faculty sponsors on a more personal level. This allows us to share ideas and experiences with each other in the hope that it will help each of us to be more successful. Our faculty sponsors really spend the time to make sure that we have the support we need, and they are constantly sharing their resources with us. Also being a part of this program, we are lucky enough to have a science mentor to help us through our internships, in addition to our supervisors and clinical teachers."
Hannah credits one professor in particular with helping her find her career path: "I have not always been on the path to be a teacher while here at CU Denver, and the semester that I was changing my path I was fortunate enough to be enrolled in Dr. Leo Bruederle's class. I had opportunities to talk to him about my career options, and he helped to discover a career in teaching. Dr. Bruederle showed me that science education is a demanding and rewarding field and encouraged me to apply for the PULSE Noyce Scholarship."
The PULSE Noyce Scholarship Program is a collaborative effort that involves faculty from CLAS and SEHD, including principal investigator Doris Kimbrough (Chemistry) and co-principal investigators Bryan Wee (Geography and Environmental Sciences and SEHD), Robert (Bud) Talbot (SEHD), Laurel Hartley, and Leo P. Bruederle (Integrative Biology).
Focused on Diversity
Noyce recruitment targets the highest performing STEM students at CU Denver, and special efforts are being made to make sure the program is inclusive of the diversity on campus. Bryan Wee, a co-principal investigator on the project, says, "Recruitment of Noyce Scholars will target under-represented populations in science education, which includes Hispanic, Black, Native American students. Although Asian American students are not considered an under-represented population (relative to other ethnic groups), they are under-represented in the social sciences, such as education. Consequently, the inclusion of more Asian American science teachers (especially men) bodes well for equity in science education and for improved learning opportunities for secondary science students." Wee expands on the initiative: "By developing a close working relationship with Disability Services and Resources, we intend to recruit at least one student in each cohort (10-20% overall) with a disability that requires coordination of services by that office (a population of approximately 350 undergraduates). This focus draws on an institutional strength of the University—a strong Disability Services Office—to address a population that is dramatically underrepresented in secondary science education. Ultimately, the goal of the Noyce program is not only to increase the numbers of high-quality science teachers but also to support efforts to make science education more inclusive by ensuring that science teachers represent the increasingly diverse demographic in Colorado and across the U.S."
As part of recruitment efforts into the Noyce Scholarship Programs, two pre-Noyce programs have also been established: the Learning Assistants Program and the Noyce Internship Program.
The Learning Assistant Program currently serves the areas of biology, chemistry, and genetics, with goals to expand to mathematics, geology, and environmental sciences. The program is intended to give high performing students an opportunity to learn about education and explore teaching in a STEM area as a career choice, while supporting course reform and improving student learning. Learning Assistants (LAs) provide support both in the classroom (supporting group work) and out of the classroom (tutoring and recitation sessions). In spring 2012, the pilot semester, 15 LAs were hired for three courses in General Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. Efforts expanded to include General Genetics in fall 2012, and the total number of LAs went up to 19 this semester.
Learning Assistants are paid for their time, but more importantly, they are also uniquely prepared to become educators through a specially designed pedagogy course taken concurrently with Professor Bud Talbott of SEHD. They are also introduced to professional development opportunities. Assistant biology professor Laurel Hartley participated in the initial implementation of the program last year and is actively studying its development. She says, "I knew I wanted to reform my class to reflect the science education research base. I knew I wanted my class to be more learner-centered. Having LAs has done more than anything else to help push me toward that goal. LAs give you a bigger window into what your students are thinking/learning. LAs push you to truly reflect on the learning goals for your course, and they allow you to do active things in class that you couldn't do alone."
Both the Rocky Mountain and PULSE programs also offer internship opportunities to students. This past summer, the Rocky Mountain Math program placed five talented undergraduate math majors in classroom settings to explore the world of teaching first hand at West Denver Prep, working with high school students in the Upward Bound program and with 6th graders at Aurora Hills Middle school's Fifth Block program. This summer's PULSE Science internships provided opportunities to either work directly with middle and high school science students or to complete a "lab-bench" research project with a CU Denver faculty member. Nine students participated: three assisted middle school students with the Science Discovery program on campus, two did lab research with Leo Bruederle, and two worked with APS as teacher assistants for their Bio Boot Camp program.
Students interested in any Noyce related program and faculty who would like to learn more about having LAs in their classrooms are encouraged to contact the program manager, Diane Santorico, for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-556-5613.