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Doane receives $1.2M grant from National Science Foundation

Doane receives $1.2M grant from National Science Foundation

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A new project Doane is taking on will help fulfill the glaring need of highly-trained STEM educators in high-need school districts.


Doane has recently received the largest grant from the National Science Foundation in school history, totaling $1.2 million. The five-year grant will provide scholarships, stipends, and support services to produce 25 new STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) teachers in high-need school districts across Nebraska.


The project, called “Project SERVE,” seeks to respond to the critical need for highly effective STEM teachers by recruiting, preparing, and supporting two cohorts of Doane students: undergraduate STEM majors and STEM bachelor degree holders interested in the teaching profession. SERVE stands for STEM Educators with Resilience, Vision, and Expertise.


Linda Kalbach, professor of education and director of secondary education, is the Principal Investigator of the project. The co-Principal Investigators are Rod Diercks, professor of education and director of middle school education, and Sharmin Sikich, assistant professor of chemistry.


Sarah Zulkoski, director of grants and foundations relations at Doane, worked diligently on this project to help secure the grant.


“It took a lot of hands to build this project,” said Jacque Carter, president of Doane University. “But none of this would have been possible without Sarah (Zulkoski). Because of her determination and persistence to never give up, we were able to work together and get this accomplished.”


According to the U.S. Department of Education, Nebraska has reported a shortage of teachers in STEM fields annually dating back to 2000.


“Something that helped our pitch for this grant was when we said there are high needs schools in Nebraska who are not getting the best of the best,” Kalbach said. “Thousands of students will be impacted through these 25 teachers. If they stay with the Doane tradition, these teachers will have a long career in education.”


Each year the grant will help support two undergraduate students and three students enrolled in the Fast Track program. Traditional undergraduates will receive $14,000 in their junior year and $24,000 during their senior year. Fast track students will receive a $18,000 stipend.


Students will participate in a series of seminars right up until they begin student teaching, Kalbach said, looking at what it means to teach effectively in a high-needs school district.


Doane is working with six school districts in Nebraska on the project, spanning from rural to urban areas. Project partners include the following Nebraska (K-12) school districts: Lincoln Public Schools, Crete Public Schools, Fairbury Public Schools, Wilber-Clatonia Public Schools, Minatare Public Schools, and Niobrara Public School.


“The variety of size in schools is a big part of this project,” Diercks said. “For these students, coming out with the understanding of how to work in both rural and urban school districts will be a fantastic experience.”


The process of working to receive this grant was not done overnight. Zulkoski estimates that the team spent roughly 2.5 years on the project, and the submission to the National Science Foundation went through four different iterations. She says in order to have a chance, schools have to have a good infrastructure and education program.


“When we put our high quality education program together with the high quality STEM programs we offer, we had the right package,” Zulkoski said. “That can be difficult for smaller institutions.”


President Carter said to an audience of faculty and staff on campus Tuesday, “There are many good things happening at Doane and this is one of the best.”