Benedictine nets $1.2 million teaching grant
Sun staff October 12, 2012 10:12AM
Updated: November 20, 2012 6:15AM
Benedictine University will encourage more students to pursue careers as scientists, mathematicians and health professionals with the help of a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Grant will be used to further the U.S. goal of regaining its competitive edge in the sciences by generated more highly qualified math and science teachers.
The National Academies, a science and technology advisory organization, has warned that the U.S. will continue to risk falling behind foreign competitors unless it improves the quality of math and science education. The World Economic Forum currently ranks the nation 48th out of 133 developed and developing nations in the quality of math and science instruction.
“People are bemoaning the state of science in this country,” said Bart Ng, dean of the College of Science at Benedictine, in a news release. “Part of it is because the people who are very good at it have alternatives. Few college students who are strong in science or math go into the teaching profession. Those who do don’t stay there very long because their skills pay much more in STEM industries.”
Allison K. Wilson, professor of biological sciences at Benedictine, said that without strong teachers in those subject areas, more students will likely struggle in college and perhaps decide against pursuing careers in the sciences.
Beginning in January, the College of Science will step up recruitment efforts for students with strong backgrounds in physics, math and chemistry and who are considering teaching as a profession. Up to 110 upperclassmen, in addition to professionals seeking alternative teacher certification who show a strong interest in the program, will be eligible to receive up to $10,000 annually to apply toward tuition for a maximum of two years, provided they agree to work in a “high-needs” school for at least two years for each scholarship awarded. Well-qualified teachers of chemistry, physics and math are in short supply nationwide, including in Chicago.
The financial awards will be made available to students for the five-year period of the grant, or until December 2017. Students will also be paired with mentor teachers at local schools, who will receive a small stipend for coaching and training graduates as they transition from student teaching to their own classrooms.
“These types of awards continue to give back several fold,” said Don Taylor, Benedictine’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “For every new pre-service teacher in science or math who is supported by scholarship funds from the grant, that teacher will have the opportunity to impact hundreds of future students in their own classrooms.”
In selecting Benedictine for the award, reviewers cited the Lisle university’s tradition of innovation in the sciences; its history of receiving grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute supporting education outreach initiatives; and its recognition by the Congressional Office of Technology and Advancement as one of the most productive undergraduate institutions in the country for the rate that its science graduates go on to earn doctoral degrees. Grant reviewers also noted the large number of undergraduates who declare science as their major, and the partnerships Benedictine has established with area elementary, middle and high schools as part of other academic initiatives.