ALBANY, N.Y. - SUNY, the New York Academy of Sciences, and SUNY Empire State College have been awarded a $2.95 million grant from the National Science Foundation, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher announced Tuesday.
According to Zimpher, the grant will help bring to scale an afterschool program in which SUNY graduate students and postdoctoral fellows mentor middle school students from high-need school districts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
“The Academy’s Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program has had a profound impact on New York City’s youth, and the expertise offered by SUNY graduate students has the potential to greatly improve science and math literacy among middle school children throughout New York State,” said Chancellor Zimpher, who also chairs the Academy’s Board of Governors. “We are grateful for the support of the National Science Foundation and thrilled to have the opportunity to bring this program to children statewide, particularly in New York State’s urban and rural communities.”
Academy President and CEO Ellis Rubinstein said, “As New Yorkers, we are fortunate to live in a hotbed of academic talent at the graduate level, and yet, our secondary school students in the very same areas are underperforming in STEM fields. STEM skills are critical not only to students’ educational success, but to their future job prospects and, vitally, the country’s ability to sustain a knowledge economy. The Academy is thrilled to extend its successful Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program to include SUNY’s tradition of academic excellence, matching outstanding graduate student resources with the needs of our middle school students.”
The grant will enable SUNY and the Academy to introduce the program in urban and rural communities throughout New York State over the next three years. Initially, it will be implemented by SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, the University at Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in the Capital District, and SUNYIT in Utica and Rome. The campuses were selected for their geographical diversity, STEM-focused degree programs, and existing partnerships with community-based organizations.
The project will create a foundation and model from which additional pilot sites can be fostered nationally. It will be carried out in three stages:
· Together, SUNY and the Academy will implement a comprehensive, systemic science education initiative to recruit scientists-in-training (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) studying in the STEM disciplines at pre-identified colleges and universities to serve as mentors in high-need middle school programs.
· The scientists-in-training will participate in a new credit-bearing online course, designed with STEM content-specific subject matter and worth three graduate-level academic credits. Faculty from SUNY Empire State College will partner with the Academy and each participating campus to prepare the mentors using the new course.
· SUNY campuses will partner with community-based organizations to place mentors in afterschool programs, serving middle school students in high-need, low-resource urban and rural communities.
Zimpher said the SUNY/Academy model is unique in that it involves the creation of a scaling mechanism to allow for maximum local innovation and adaptation, while retaining the core elements of the program. It also utilizes an online platform to deliver the content-based mentor training and to provide support to the young scientists/mentors statewide.
By the end of the third year, a best practices guide will be produced by the SUNY/Academy team to help interested universities determine capacity for implementing similar programs at their campuses. Additional campuses will be selected in subsequent years using a Request for Proposals (RFP) selection process.
The project is one of several comprehensive efforts that SUNY is leading to help students successfully transition through the education pipeline, from early childhood, through K-12 and college, and ultimately into the workforce.
SUNY Senior Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges and the Education Pipeline Johanna Duncan-Poitier said, “At a time when there is an increased demand for more graduates in the STEM fields, the National Science Foundation has provided SUNY with a powerful opportunity to systemically strengthen the education pipeline for our state’s future. We are so pleased to be partnering with the New York Academy of Sciences and our campuses to bring this outstanding program to scale throughout New York.”
Academy Director of K12 Education Meghan Groome said, “Research continues to show that role models are vital in helping kids become the next generation of scientists and STEM-literate citizens. At the same time, young scientists need opportunities to learn how to teach and become better mentors as they pursue their scientific research. We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for giving us the opportunity to research how to bring this program to the students and scientists across New York State.”
SUNY Empire State College Acting President Meg Benke said, “Teaching and learning through mentoring is the cornerstone of Empire State College’s education mission and by adding our strengths in curriculum development and online delivery we can help to bring the Academy’s Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program to a statewide scale. Training SUNY graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to be better teachers means middle school will be better students and more likely to succeed in class. I am very pleased that the National Science Foundation is recognizing the value of what SUNY, the Academy, and the college offers.”