Ohio Northern University has received a substantial grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund scholarships for students in the third and fourth years of the University’s engineering education and math education programs. The five-year grant, which began May 1, is initially for $777,000 and is expected to eventually total approximately $1.2 million. The funding source is the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program.

The project, “Ohio Excels: Preparing highly qualified educators through the integration of engineering and mathematics,” was designed and submitted by ONU faculty members Todd France, Adrienne Goss, Tena L. Roepke and Thomas Zechman. France is an engineering education faculty member; Goss, an education faculty member; Roepke, a mathematics faculty member; and Zechman, a civil engineering faculty member.

The first two-year scholarships will be awarded to current ONU students in the fall of the 2018-19 academic year. Students earning the scholarships will then fulfill a two-year commitment for every year of scholarship they receive, upon graduation, to teach in a school district in the United States that that meets one of the following criteria: a high percentage of students from families with incomes below the poverty line, a higher percentage of secondary school teachers not teaching in the content area in which they were trained, or a high teacher-turnover rate.

A goal is to fund an average of eight students per year during the course of the five-year program.

The average scholarship award will be $20,000 per student per year, based on the students’ financial needs, and the minimum amount will be $10,000. The scholarships funded by the NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program are in addition to scholarships the students may have already earned from ONU, the Choose Ohio First grants and the federal TEACH Grant. The goal is to offer selected ONU students a financial package that fully supports their final two years of college.

Students will be selected based on their commitment and potential to successfully enter the teaching profession. Criteria include being a math education or engineering education major, achieving a minimum grade-point average of 2.5, and demonstrating a commitment to teaching through activities such as participation in educational outreach events or other experiential learning activities offered by ONU.

“This program aligns with the NSF emphasis on placing more highly qualified students in schools where they are most needed, which also supports the ONU College of Engineering’s focus on further increasing diversity,” said France, assistant professor of engineering education.

“One of the goals of this effort is to attract more students from the districts served by this program. Also, STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics) is a growing professional field,” France said. “We are looking to get more middle and high school students to see the value and integration of math and engineering education. We are cognizant about tying together the two disciplines so students see how they are related and the various professional paths they can then pursue.”

Roepke noted the cooperative nature of the endeavor as well as its emphasis on preparing future teachers to make an impact.

“I am pleased that this grant supports both students in mathematics education and students in engineering education,” said Roepke, associate professor of mathematics. “Our programs have worked jointly to design curricula and activities that prepare future teachers for both of these fields. The grant will help us to support those pre-service teachers financially while preparing them to teach in the classrooms where they are most needed.”

Zechman, assistant dean of the college of engineering, said, “This grant is indicative of the uniqueness and value of ONU’s engineering education program. I am not aware of another program in the country that does what ONU’s program does at the undergraduate level in terms of preparing future high school math teachers with a foundation in general engineering.”