Fordham Recieves Sizable Grant to Help Fund Science Students Planning to Teach


Published: October 5, 2010

Future science educators at Fordham will be eligible for increased financial help this year thanks to the $967,010 grant Fordham received in August from the National Science Foundation. This money will offer tuition assistance to selected undergraduates who wish to pursue education while studying science at Fordham, as well as “career changers” who decide to become teachers after they have graduated. It was awarded to the Fordham University/Wildlife Conservation Society Science Teacher Noyce Scholarship Program.

Anna Smyczynski/The Observer

The scholarship program, which will provide $9,000 to five undergraduate students studying science and four career-changers per year, will last until 2015. Each year, five new students, or cohorts, will receive the scholarship. It will supply funding for tuition at the undergraduate level, a year at Fordham’s Graduate School of Education and will help finance conferences, high school mentors and summer internships in the field.

“By the end of the funding period we will have funded 35 students through this program; roughly half will be undergraduates,” said John Craven, Ph.D., associate professor of science education at Fordham’s Graduate School of Education and principal investigator organizing this scholarship.

Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) currently has a five-year education track in place that pairs the Wild Life Conservation Society and Fordham’s Graduate School of Education for students to obtain a Master of Science degree in education. This specialized program allows students to work in collaboration with the Bronx Zoo, giving potential science teachers the opportunity to immerse themselves in hands-on experience before entering high schools.

“The fact that we already had a formal arrangement with the Wild Life Conservation Society already in place, I think that was a plus,” Grace Vernon, Ph.D., professor of biology and chair of natural science at FCLC, said. “The National Science Foundation is increasingly interested in a combination of academic and non-academic institutions and this fit right into their goals.”

Deborah Luckett (top) and Grace Vernon (bottom) are co-principal investigators of the Noyce scholarship at FCLC. ( Anna Smyczynski/The Observer)

Vernon and Deborah Luckett, Ph.D., lecturer of natural science at FCLC, are co-principal investigators of the Noyce scholarship program.

“The National Science Foundation supports a wide array of programs to enhance science education and research; it’s hard to get a grant from them,” Luckett said. “If you get a grant from them, you are somebody. We are very happy that we were awarded this grant.”

The scholarship money, which extends over three years, is aimed toward sophomores and juniors studying science at FCLC. According to Craven, applicants for the scholarship must display exemplary leadership qualities, provide a letter of reference and write an essay. While no set GPA is in place, candidates will be interviewed to see if they have the qualities and characteristics it takes to go into teaching.

Recipients of the scholarship must teach science at the secondary level and commit to teaching in a high-needs school for every year of funding they receive.

“A high-needs school district does not mean ‘bad’ school. It’s defined by subtle criteria such as a high percentage of individuals with family incomes below the poverty line, and it also includes schools or districts in which there are science techers not certified by New York State in the subject area, or a school or district  with high teacher turnover rates,” Craven said. “According to that rubric, high-needs schools can be found in many, many districts in the metro area and Long Island.”

While pursing a career in education may not be at the forefront of many undergraduates’ minds, Vernon and Luckett said they are hoping this grant will increase the base of students in the sciences and provide alternate options for some pre-med students at FCLC by highlighting other options to explore in the science field besides medical school.

“There is a need for science teachers,” Luckett said, “There is a severe shortage of science and math teachers. If you teach science and math in public schools, there are no problems at all to get a job…the salaries are very competitive. I think it’s a really terrific opportunity.”

An open house will be held in October and the scholarship will begin to be utilized spring semester. Those interested in applying should contact Craven ([email protected]) or Vernon ([email protected]) for an application. The deadline for undergraduates to apply is Dec. 15.