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Faculty researchers receive NSF grant to recruit science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) educators

June 16, 2009 -- A group of faculty researchers at Arkansas State University-Jonesboro has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for $899,988 over a period of five years for the program “Creating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Teachers for Arkansas’ Future (C-STAF)” (NSF proposal number 0934904). C-STAF will establish the ASU C-STAF/Noyce Teaching Scholarship program at ASU-Jonesboro to fund the education of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related fields. The scholarship will be available to students for up to three years. Students who receive this funding are required to become licensed teachers upon graduation, and they are further required to teach for two years for every year of funding they have received. These students will teach in their respective STEM fields in high-needs public schools in Arkansas, with emphasis upon northeast Arkansas, the Delta region, and the Ozark foothills.

The grant was made available through the NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, which targets enhancement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and educators. Robert Norton Noyce, who died in 1990, was nicknamed “the mayor of Silicon Valley,” and was the co-founder of both Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel. Noyce is credited, along with Jack Kilby, with the invention of the integrated circuit or microchip. Noyce attended Grinnell College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he was awarded the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Medal of Honor in 1978, the National Medal of Science in 1979, and the National Academy of Engineering’s Draper Prize in 1990.
In 1991, Robert Noyce’s family created the Noyce Foundation, dedicated to improving public education in mathematics and science in grades K-12.

The C-STAF project has three goals. Its primary goal is to enhance the availability and preparation of science and mathematics teachers throughout northeast Arkansas and the Delta region. Another goal is to amplify knowledge of and enthusiasm for teaching careers among college students, thereby increasing the numbers of future STEM teachers. A third goal of the project will be to study the logistics and mechanics of the ASU C-STAF/Noyce Teaching Scholarship program through careful observation, assessment, and analysis of results and data. This feedback will be used to strengthen the program, but it will also be used to determine comparable programs might be established at other sites. The results of this educational research will be disseminated at conferences and in journals to aid other institutions in augmenting STEM education in their respective regions.

In order to generate interest in teaching careers among college students, the C-STAF program will offer a “Try Out the Classroom” workshop held during the summers, in which college students will receive an introduction to the teaching profession.  If interested, these students will be able to visit and teach in a public school classroom during the following fall. Summer teacher training workshops will also be conducted to introduce current teachers to various resources available through the C-STAF program.

In addition, a spring semester “Try Out the Classroom” course for credit will be offered to STEM majors considering a career in teaching. The course will be available to all STEM majors and will include several classroom visits in order to observe and to work directly with students in conjunction with ASU faculty.

ASU-Jonesboro’s C-STAF program will be headed by Dr. Anne Grippo, associate professor of biology and interim director of the Environmental Science Graduate Program. Colleagues working with her will include Dr. Tillman Kennon, associate professor of science education, Dr. Mike Hall, associate professor of mathematics, Dr. Robert Engelken, director and professor of electrical engineering, Dr. Karen Yanowitz, associate professor of psychology and counseling, and Jannie Trautwein, director of the Northeast Arkansas Rural Institute for Mathematics/Science Education.

The team of faculty researchers brings a wealth and diversity of backgrounds and areas of expertise to the project, including biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, psychology/counseling, and education.  All participants are experts in their respective disciplines, both in education and research, and several are specialists in science education.

Dr. Anne A. Grippo, project director and associate professor of biology, holds a BS in Chemistry and a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry. Dr. Grippo teaches courses in cellular biology, as well as physiology, endocrinology, pharmacology, and toxicology.  Her research has focused upon the effects of natural products, such as phytoestrogens and dietary supplements, on mammalian cells and systems, including reproductive and cardiovascular systems. Dr. Grippo has been active in science fair judging, as well as assisting area elementary students in designing and carrying out science fair projects. She has been an active participant in the National Science Foundation GK-12 Program, bringing graduate students into the public school classroom, as well as serving as a workshop leader for the Arkansas Science Coaches Program.

Dr. Tillman Kennon, associate professor of science education, works extensively with regional high schools in the training of college students to become teachers, and in the continuing education of current teachers. Dr. Kennon's research involves both science education and atmospheric studies through the Arkansas BalloonSAT program, where he is the education research director. Funding for this research is provided from NASA through the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium. He is currently working with Dr. Adam Huang, of the University of Arkansas' Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, to develop and test CubeSATs that will orbit the Earth in future. His article “Students at the Edge of Space,” was published in the January 2008 issue of The Science Teacher, the journal of the  National Science Teachers Association. A photograph taken from a camera mounted in one of the payload boxes flown on Arkansas BalloonSAT 6 (ABS-06) was selected for the cover. Dr. Kennon and Dr. John Pratte have developed a SENCER course, “Atmospheric Dynamics” centered on this high-altitude program. This course is designed for both science and science education majors and is a collaborative effort involving these students, 7-12 students, and their teachers.

Dr. Michael Hall, associate professor of mathematics, is extensively involved with mathematics education and the training of mathematics teachers. He has taught at ASU for 7 years, and during that time he has fostered relationships with K-12 mathematics and science teachers through the writing of approximately $4 million worth of grants that focus on teacher quality and improvement. With both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics and a PhD in Educational Leadership-Mathematics Education, his expertise is devoted to assisting pre-service and in-service teachers of mathematics and science to become the best teachers possible. He is a member of numerous national organizations devoted to mathematics education and serves as a reviewer for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). He also serves as a reader for the Advanced Placement (AP-Calculus) program.

Dr. Robert Engelken, director and professor of electrical engineering, has taught engineering courses and conducted both engineering and engineering education research at ASU for 27 years. With a bachelor’s degree in physics, and both a master’s degree and PhD in electrical engineering, and a research focus on semiconductor material and devices involving significant chemistry, he has a broad, interdisciplinary perspective on both research and education. He has mentored nearly 100 undergraduate research assistants while at ASU, many of whom have gone on to receive graduate degrees and pursue successful careers in engineering and related fields. He is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and the Education Division of the institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Dr. Karen Yanowitz, associate professor of psychology and counseling, conducts basic research on cognitive processes, and its application towards improving science education. She examines developmental changes in how students and teachers understand the process and nature of science. As part of her outreach activities, she has collaborated with science and mathematics faculty in developing and evaluating science/mathematics improvement programs designed for both teachers and students.

Ms. Jannie Trautwein is director of the Northeast Arkansas Rural Institute for Mathematics and Science Education in partnership with Arkansas State University. She works daily with regional schools to foster effective STEM education and innovation. She has been awarded many grants and has previously directed a grant similar to the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program.

The C-STAF program supports Arkansas State University’s mission to serve the state and region, to enhance educational opportunities for the region’s young people, and to contribute significantly to the local, state, and regional economic infrastructure via advancing education and technological facility. It also is consistent with ASU’s transition to a research institution and its increasing emphasis upon multidisciplinary, externally funded research and scholarly activity among its faculty.

Dr. Glen Jones, senior associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and Research and executive assistant to the chancellor for diversity, says, “We are very grateful for the National Science Foundation’s decision to fund Dr. Anne Grippo’s proposal. She has assembled an interdisciplinary team consisting of many talented individuals whose passions for teaching and engaging students are well-known throughout our region. This nationally competitive award will allow ASU to remain at the forefront in addressing the long-term educational and economic development needs of our region and state. “

It is expected that ASU C-STAF/Noyce Teaching Scholarship program and the “Try Out the Classroom” workshop program will attract additional students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into the teaching profession, augment the credentials of current STEM teachers, and enlarge the pool of talented STEM teachers in the state and region.

For general program information, including application forms for the ASU C-STAF/Noyce Teaching Scholarship, or information for teachers and students of biology, contact Dr. Anne Grippo, (, (870) 972-3493. For information on chemistry/science, contact Dr. Tillman Kennon (, (870) 972-3256; for information on math, contact Dr. Mike Hall (, (870) 680-8124; and for information on engineering, contact Dr. Robert Engelken (, (870) 972-3227. Visit the ASU C-STAF/Noyce webpage at for information, application forms, workshop and class descriptions, and more.




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