In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for a new effort
(Sep 18, 2012) —
In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for a new effort
to prepare 100,000 teachers in the so-called STEM disciplines — science, technology,
engineering and math — over the next decade. His “Educate to Innovate” and “Preparing
a 21st Century Workforce” initiatives carry the mantle of previous administrations
to get America moving on the STEM agenda.
The call for STEM teachers with “strong teaching skills and deep content knowledge”
was renewed in 2012 and codified in the president’s 2013 federal budget, which proposes
$3 billion in federal STEM education programs, including an investment of $135 million
to improve teaching and learning in STEM fields from early learning through K-12 and
college undergraduate levels.
Kennesaw State’s message to the president and the nation: “We’re on it.”
In fact, for almost a decade, the university has been aggressively positioning itself
to become a leader in producing K-12 STEM teachers and steadily building its capacity
to recruit, retain and graduate undergraduate students in STEM disciplines. Prior
to 2006, KSU was producing fewer than 25 science and math teachers annually. In 2011,
the university graduated nearly 100, achieving the distinction of becoming Georgia’s
top producer of STEM teachers. More than 200 students are in the STEM teacher preparation
In addition, the number of students graduating with undergraduate degrees in STEM
disciplines from fiscal years 2006 through 2011 increased 40 percent,from 265 to 372.
More than 3,300 Kennesaw State undergraduate are majoring in STEM fields in the College
of Science and Mathematics, which include chemistry/biochemistry, chemistry education,
biology, biology education, biotechnology, computer science, mathematics and secondary
A number of significant milestones are helping increase KSU’s STEM and STEM education
pipeline from a trickle to a steady stream:
- The introduction of the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree for math in 2007 and
for science in 2008;
- More than $4 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to increase
the number of STEM teachers and teacher leaders for K-12 schools, and the number of
undergraduate STEM majors, as well as provide professional development for K-12 teachers;
- A strong collaboration between the College of Science and Mathematics and the Bagwell
College of Education, which has created the Center for Advancing the Teaching of Mathematics
and Science (A.T.O.M.S), an innovative teacher development center and hub for STEM
education initiatives at KSU; and its Center for Education Integrating Science,
- Mathematics & Computing (CEISMC), which have helped facilitate recruitment of Tech
grads into the science and math master of teaching programs;
- An increase in the number of grants and partnerships that help increase the number
of underrepresented minority students majoring in STEM fields;
- The Kennesaw State University Foundation will fund two faculty fellow positions to
enhance research and teaching in biomedical sciences beginning in 2013.
- “The college is very excited about the opportunities these new positions will offer
in growing our undergraduate and graduate programs,” said Mark Anderson, recently
appointed dean of the College of Science and Mathematics. “We anticipate that in addition
to new research areas, they will also contribute to the active outreach programs the
- has to the K-12 STEM community.”
- The addition this fall of a new $21 million science lab containing the high-tech classrooms
and labs necessary for instruction, research and future flexibility leading to undergraduate
and graduate degree programs in biology, biotechnology, chemistry and biochemistry.
Kennesaw State’s reach in the STEM education field was a natural fit for a university
that produces more teachers than any higher education institution in Georgia, according
to Adrian Epps, associate dean in the College of Science and Mathematics and director
of the A.T.O.M.S Center.
“It was the vision of the former dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, Larry
Peterson, to have KSU also produce the highest number of K-12 science and math teachers,”
Epps said. “He committed financial and human resources and formed committees to ensure
success. That vision has been embraced by the former interim dean, Ron Matson, and
Arlinda Eaton, dean of the Bagwell College of Education. They have continued to devote
tremendous resources and have forged a true partnership.”
An indicator of how solid and unique that partnership is,
Epps noted, is the large number of education faculty housed in the College of Science
and Mathematics — some 25 — who are teaching science and math education, more than
at any university in the state.
Not an easy road
Despite the increased level of funding, establishing leadership in the STEM education
arena has required extreme
commitments of time for planning and recruitment. Add to that, says MAT-science coordinator
Greg Rushton, well-known issues inherent to the current state of public K-12 education
and the difficulty in attracting STEM professionals to teaching, especially those
in the least populated physical sciences like chemistry and physics, then you can
see that what KSU has undertaken is not an easy task.
“It is easier to recruit teacher candidates in the life sciences and math” said Rushton,
director and principal investigator of the I-IMPACT program, which works to recruit
and retain secondary chemistry and physics teachers from among professionals in these
fields. “Some 70 percent of STEM recruits go into math and biology. We chose to recruit
in the most challenging STEM sub-population.”
Getting professionals to consider teaching is a hard sell, Rushton concedes, not only
to get them in but to keep them
and have them produce at a high level. He points to critical issues that need to be
resolved in the teaching profession — paying everyone the same, regardless of productivity,
creating a work environment where professionals have a sense of autonomy and not all
decisions are top down and having metrics in place for evaluating effectiveness.
“Despite these issues, we’re having success because we’re targeting what we think
are the most strategic populations: early career professionals who realize that the
professions are not consistent with their world views and traditionalists who have
10-20 years invested in their careers and who figure it may be a good time to try
something else, perhaps for altruistic reasons, or those who may have been downsized.”
With this strategy, Rushton says they have recruited more than 50 people from outside
of teaching. “We think
that’s pretty good.”
A few good men and women
Kevin Cameron, 46, of Dunwoody, became a spring 2012 teaching fellow in the MAT program, supported
by an I-IMPACT-Noyce scholarship that provides $10,000 per year for five years and
$5,000 for supplies and travel. The stipend covers tuition while he pursues his master’s
and follows him into his career of teaching high school chemistry, which he hopes
to do in his hometown.
Before his most recent 12-year stint as a stay-at-home dad, Cameron, who majored in
biology, had a career in technology, working with a company that produces and sells
financial software to Fortune 500 companies. It was as a track dad that he met and
began talking to KSU’s Adrian Epps — their children were both running cross country
— about his experience tutoring high school kids in chemistry. Epps shared information
about KSU’s STEM teacher-recruitment efforts and ultimately the two began working
on Cameron’s application.
“I always knew I wanted to teach, but computers came easy, so I got into that,” Cameron
said. “I had a background in biology and I enjoyed that, but I find chemistry more
engaging — more exciting, quantifiable and tangible. “This program is really a perfect
fit because now that my children are older, I was looking for a career to finish with,
but something that would give me more than just a paycheck,” Cameron said.
Cameron said he initially became discouraged by an interviewer who said he did not
know anything about the classroom. “She was right,” says Cameron. “I didn’t. But I’m
learning so much. They’re teaching me to become a great teacher. It’s a sacrifice
to miss out on family things, but I think it’s made a positive impression on my 6th-
and 10th-grade daughters who see me studying all the time.”
As a participant in the IMTAS program, Lauren Barnes earned her MAT in math at KSU in summer 2011 and now teaches support-level classes
to students struggling with math at Lassiter High School in Cobb County.
A 2010 Georgia Tech graduate who majored in science, technology and Culture, Barnes
said she changed major five times before deciding that she wanted to teach.
“I had a great love of literature and poetry and a strong aptitude for science and
math,” Barnes explained. “I knew I’d be more likely to get a job if I concentrated
on math or science. Then one day, I saw a banner in a classroom at Tech announcing
the master’s program at Kennesaw. That was it!”
As an IMTAS participant, Barnes received $10,000 annually to cover tuition and expenses
while earning her MAT in math. She continues to attend monthly Saturday seminars at
KSU that help teachers learn more about working with diverse student populations,
especially those whose first language is not English. The program also provides support
for graduates to attend conferences for math teachers.
“The program at KSU and the seminars have been very helpful in teaching me how to
get students to work together, despite their differences,” Barnes said. “One of my
KSU professors even came to observe my classroom and give me feedback. I can’t believe
how much I’ve learned.”
Senior biology major Bianca Mondesir is one of those students who probably would have succeeded without funded programs
targeted to help her do so. With a 4.0 GPA and an eye towards medical school at Case
Western or Morehouse College, the Long Island, N.Y. native always knew she wanted
to be a doctor.
Still, Modesir, who received NSF funding as a freshman to attend KSU, participated
in a 10-week enrichment program called STEM Scholars, where upper class students teach
lab techniques to newer students, who in turn, also teach high school students. In
recognition of their hard work, they also participate in a Lab Coat Ceremony, where
they receive lab coats and are officially inducted into the field of study. The program,
which is funded by an NSF grant also provides small scholarships for science majors.
Mondesir, one of more than 60 minority students majoring in STEM at KSU, served as
president of the STEM Scholars and is a vocal proponent of the program.
“The idea is that you learn by doing,” said Mondesir, who has been on both the learning
and teaching end of the scholars program. “A lot of minorities set out to do biology
but they don’t stick with it; they tend to drop out. We offer extra support and show
them that they can do it.”
-- Sabbaye McGriff
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.