One day after Jackson State University (JSU) was awarded a five-year $3,731,454 grant for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Scholars Teacher Academy Resident System (STEM STARS) project from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. William McHenry, Executive Director of the Mississippi e-Center Foundation and Professor of Chemistry at Jackson State University and Jerry Redmond, Owner and Lead Principal of Redmond Design visited the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) to discuss the details of their newly forged partnership.
The first grant of its kind in Arkansas, to goal of the project is to address the challenge of providing high quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers for all students in high need school districts. A collaboration between multiple HBCUs, McHenry also serves as principal investigator. Dr. Daniel Watkins, Dean of Education at JSU, Dr. Renee Akbar, Division Chair of Educational Leadership at XULA, Dr. Mary E. Benjamin, Vice Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Economic Development at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), and Dr. Melvin Davis, Executive Director of Mississippi Urban Research Center (MURC) at JSU serve as co-principal investigators on the project.
“The NSF-funded STEM STARS grant allows the UAPB STEM Academy to further expand its portfolio of STEM enrichment programs for the preparation of the state and national STEM workforce,” Dr. Benjamin said. “Partnering with Jackson State University, the lead institution, and Xavier University in this tri-state (Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi) program to prepare STEM college graduates to become Master degree science and mathematics teachers and work in underserved areas will help to better equip more K-12 students with the academic preparation needed for entry to and success in our colleges, universities and vocational schools in STEM fields.”
The STEM STARS program will prepare 120 teacher residents who will gain clinical, mentored experience and develop familiarity with local schools, which is designed to enhance teacher retention and diversity rates. The Mississippi e-Center at Jackson State University leads the NSF initiative to produce 120 new STEM STARS (science and mathematics teacher) for the ArkLaMiss region and develop and test a research-based strategy.
“Clearly the most important element in producing more competitive scientists and engineers is to provide students with outstanding science and mathematics teachers. The STEM STARS initiative will develop an exceptional model that can be adopted by other universities,” said Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers, President of Jackson State University.
“We are pleased and honored to join with these two great institutions on a major project to greatly enhance the number and quality of exceptional STEM teachers. The NSF funds for this partnership will enable our STEM Stars to shine brightly in their interactions with our STEM students on campus and as they bring advanced teaching techniques to transform the educational experiences for students in schools in our communities,” said Dr. Laurence B. Alexander, Chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
“We know that the cultivation and nurture of the scientific and engineering talent among our K-12 students requires outstanding teachers of science and mathematics, able to encourage passion and imagination. We at Xavier University of Louisiana are very pleased to partner with colleagues at University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and at Jackson State University to prepare such teachers, STEM STARS, and to assure the readiness of students in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.” said Dr. C. Reynold Verret President of Xavier University of Louisiana.
The STEM STARS partnership, with its focus on middle school and secondary science and mathematics helps make it unique in its approach to increasing the number of high quality, culturally responsive, and licensed middle and secondary science teachers prepared to teach in the nation’s high-need urban and rural schools. Project outcomes are expected to inform the design of additional Teacher Residency Academies that will serve as novel alternatives to the traditional teacher preparation and post-baccalaureate certification programs common throughout the nation. The 120 teacher residents supported by the program will obtain state licensure/certification in science teaching, a master’s degree, and initiation to National Board certification.
For more information about the STEM STARS project, please call (870) 575-7165.