Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota has recently been awarded a $1.18 million NSF Noyce Grant in support of the university’s new Inclusive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Teacher Education Pipeline (ISTEP) project.
ISTEP is designed to increase the number of secondary STEM teachers (or teacher candidates) from diverse backgrounds who are committed to teaching in high-need local education schools in southeastern Minnesota.
According to Wilder Research (2019), nearly 42% of public school districts in Minnesota report that teacher shortages are a serious problem. Additionally, less than half of Minnesota’s licensed teachers are currently teaching in public schools. Overall, 3.8% out of Minnesota’s 64,202 public school teachers are teaching out of their licensed area, especially in the field of mathematics. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education has reported teacher shortages in Minnesota, especially in math and science, for more than 15 years.
Gaps in racial/ethnic representation are even more significant. As of 2019, one-third of Minnesota students were students of color, while teachers of color were reported as 4%.
Over a five-year period, grant funding will enable Saint Mary’s to provide scholarships and stipends to more than 20 undergraduate and graduate students pursuing teacher licensure in a STEM-related field. This will build a pool of Noyce Scholar graduates large enough to move the needle in STEM teacher preparation. STEM+Education (B.A.) students will be awarded two-year scholarships and MAT students will be awarded one-year stipends, commensurate with the duration of the respective programs.
Curriculum and programming will support and thoroughly prepare these students for their careers — and encourage others to pursue STEM careers and study.
“The goals of the NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program align with Saint Mary’s ‘Strategic Plan: Building a Future Full of Hope 2025,’ which emphasizes increasing access to educational opportunities,” said Saint Mary’s President Father James P. Burns, IVD, Ph.D. “The program will build a pipeline from high-need secondary schools to Saint Mary’s, which will improve student success, retention, and completion; respond to workforce needs; and provide career support for students after graduation. We are grateful that together, we can begin to address this gap in our educational system.”
“Guided by distinctly Lasallian Catholic principles, Saint Mary’s University has been preparing students for ethical lives of service and leadership for over 100 years,” said Michael Lovorn, Ph.D., dean of Saint Mary’s School of Education. “Our mission to awaken, nurture and empower learners is enriched by our collective commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in all academic contexts. We are humbled and pleased to be the recipients of the ISTEP program award, as it will advance our efforts to recruit and retain more teacher candidates of color. Our team of teacher educators and STEM experts is enthusiastic about this important work, and we are confident the program will help us achieve our overall goal of increasing the number of STEM teachers of color across southeastern Minnesota. We couldn’t be prouder of our participation in this effort.”
Led by the School of Education, ISTEP involves coordination between education faculty, science faculty, and other areas of the university. The ISTEP Project Management Team includes Dean Michael Lovorn, Professor John McClure, Professor Moni Berg-Binder, Professor Kristen Sellke, Professor Nathan Lien, Professor Tim Indahl, Professor Robyn Wangberg, Interim Dean of the Parmer School of Sciences Darren Row, Professor Ben Pauli, and Professor Nancy Van Erp.