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UWA awarded $1.38 million by NSF for STEM students

UWA student science lab
Project INSPIRE will create scholarships and long-term opportunity for future teachers

The University of West Alabama’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics has announced a $1.38 million-dollar grant funded by the National Science Foundation for a partnership with Bevill State Community College, Coastal Alabama Community College, Demopolis City Schools, and University Charter School to enhance STEM curriculum for students. Dubbed Project INSPIRE, the project allows for a total of 20 individual scholarships and 13 stipends over five years for those pursuing STEM careers.

The project is supported by NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program and is designed to recruit and develop STEM teachers for the region. Participants in the program will engage in coursework on STEM teaching methods, instructional technology, classroom management, and diversity, with opportunities to present their work at professional conferences.

Implementing Novel STEM Practices in Rural Education (INSPIRE) will support students and professionals in attaining a STEM degree with teacher certification in exchange for an agreement to teach in a regional, rural school system.

“The University is encouraged by and grateful for the support from the National Science Foundation and the confidence that they have placed in our team to help boost the STEM teacher pipeline,” said UWA President Ken Tucker. “I applaud the leadership team that developed the proposal for Project INSPIRE, and I look forward to seeing the implementation of their plans and the positive impact that it will have on our region for many years to come.”

The project and grant proposal team includes Dr. John McCall, dean of UWA’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Dr. Reenay Rogers, associate dean of UWA’s College of Education; Dr. Hazel Truelove, assistant professor of mathematics; and Carmen Giles, associate director of sponsored programs and research at UWA.

Project INSPIRE could help alleviate the shortage of highly qualified STEM teachers in our rural area with innovative strategies designed to address the unique needs of rural pre-service and in-service teachers specializing in STEM programs.

There are three primary goals of Project INSPIRE, including building workforce, creating mentoring opportunities, and creating post-secondary pathways for STEM teachers.

Project coordinators expect INSPIRE to aid in increasing the number and quality of certified STEM teachers entering the workforce through scholarship incentives. INSPIRE will develop a collaborative mentoring environment between program participants and clinical master teachers. Long-term, the project will help create an induction program for INSPIRE graduates to continue developing subject matter comprehension and pedagogical practices after graduation and certification.

“At UWA, we strive to develop curriculum and opportunities that best prepare our students for long-term success,” said UWA Provost Tim Edwards. “Our faculty works diligently to ensure that curriculum aligns with the careers and even the challenges that graduates will face in the workforce. They are committed to developing these pathways that will guide our students to success. This is a perfect example of preparing our students for the meaningful work that they will do for many years to come.”

To learn more about UWA’s Project INSPIRE, contact Dr. John McCall at jmccall@uwa.edu or visit the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics online.

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