IUP Receives $1.19 Million to Address Need for STEM High School Teachers
Indiana University of Pennsylvania has been selected to receive $1.19 million from the National Science Foundation through the Noyce Scholarships and Stipends program to help address the critical need for effective Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) teachers in Pennsylvania’s high schools.
Holly Travis, dean’s associate for Educator Preparation in the College of Education and Communications and professor of Biology, is the principal investigator for the multi-year project, which includes collaboration with 12 area school districts and two community colleges.
The project, IUP Crimson Hawks Advance and Retain Great Educators (IUP-CHARGE), will begin in May and continue through April 2028.
“IUP is very proud to have been chosen for this important initiative,” Sue Rieg, interim dean of the IUP College of Education and Communications, said.
“Dr. Travis has been extraordinary in her ongoing work to advance STEM education, and on behalf of all the students Dr. Travis and her team will impact, I want to offer our appreciation for being willing to take on this critically important work. Not only will this grant provide new opportunities to talented students who will complete their studies in STEM education at IUP, it will have a direct benefit to high schools and their students throughout Pennsylvania as it will help address the teacher shortages in STEM fields,” Rieg said.
The goal of the program is to recruit, prepare, and support 20 undergraduate STEM majors who opt to pursue teacher certification as part of their undergraduate degree, rather than just a science or math content degree, Travis said. Qualified students in the program can apply for funding to help them complete programs preparing them for STEM education careers.
“The project is designed to respond to the crucial need for STEM teachers in Pennsylvania, with an overarching goal of increasing the number of undergraduate students who are prepared to be highly effective secondary STEM teachers in high-need schools over the next five years,” she said.
Specifically, Travis and her team, which includes co-principal investigators Brian Sharp, Edel Reilly (faculty in the Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences), and Kelly Paquette (Professional Studies in Education Department), will recruit a diverse pool of scholars through multiple existing pathways—IUP University College, community colleges, introductory STEM courses, and area high schools—over the five-year grant period to increase the number of STEM majors who pursue secondary teaching certification and licensure, and who are committed to teaching in high-need school districts.
“In addition, we will track, support, and improve the persistence of Noyce Scholar alumni during their high-need school teaching service and beyond by providing mentorship and induction-support activities,” Travis said.
The team will develop the plan for action over the summer months and actively begin recruiting students for the program in the fall.
“For example, we will look at our current students who are strong mathematics and science students, passionate about their disciplines, who are not necessarily thinking about teaching; we’ll work with them to provide options and let them know about the scholarship opportunities provided if they choose to become a Noyce Scholar,” Travis said.
“We also will work with first-year students in specific courses, including students in the IUP University College, especially those students (who have not yet chosen a major), but who are interested in mathematics, science, or education, to promote this opportunity,” she said.
The team will work with high schools and community colleges to identify students who could be the right fit for the project and will work with students in community college who are interested in completing their teaching certification.
Additionally, the grant has a goal of recruiting and attracting a more diverse pool of students who choose high school STEM teaching.
“We are very excited about being about being able to address this critical need for outstanding science and mathematics teachers in Pennsylvania, and to help to support local populations from a variety of backgrounds to teach tomorrow’s leaders in STEM,” Travis said.
“I also want to thank the IUP Research Institute for alerting us to this grant opportunity, and for the RI’s assistance, especially interim director Dr. Tracy Eisenhower, in our successful completion of the application,” Travis said.
The IUP Research Institute works with faculty and staff to provide research administration assistance at all stages of externally funded projects by promoting research and creative activity, encouraging collaborations, responsible stewardship of funds, and award management and compliance. It is a separate, private, nonprofit corporation affiliated with IUP and is the only entity of its type in the State System of Higher Education. It provides research administration services to the campuses of Commonwealth University and Pennsylvania Western University through a shared services initiative.
Travis has been successful in securing a number of grants and funding opportunities to support STEM education, including environmental education, including a 2022 Pennsylvania Department of Education project to develop age-appropriate STEM kits for kindergarten through grade 12 teachers. She was also senior personnel on a PDE grant to develop and implement year-long residency programs for teachers, especially in hard-to-staff disciplines, and to transform educator preparation at IUP.
Travis is the university supervisor for biology education student teachers and coordinator of biology education and is the director of the Indiana Area High School Science Club Research Collaboration and High School Research Program. She is the student program coordinator for the IUP John J. and Char Kopchick College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics’ Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program. She also was the science coordinator for the IUP Upward Bound Math and Science Program from 2008 to 2022 and was a volunteer for the Junior Naturalist Outdoor Adventure Camps for more than a decade.
She received the 2019 IUP School of Graduate Studies and Research High Impact Teaching Award and the 2008 Armstrong Conservation District Educator of the Year.