Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields increasingly drive U.S. innovation and competiveness, and more STEM-educated professionals are needed to fill in-demand, well-paying jobs in these fields. Yet fewer than 40 percent of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field complete a STEM degree – if they graduate at all.
To help reduce attrition rates in STEM disciplines, particularly among historically underrepresented students, the Cornell University Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CU-CIRTL) is preparing future STEM faculty to be great researchers and teachers. CU-CIRTL is part of a network of 22 major research universities in which STEM graduate students learn teaching and mentoring techniques proven to help undergraduate students from all backgrounds stay with their STEM majors and complete their degrees.
As part of the CIRTL Network, Cornell University will receive $130,000 from Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corp., which has committed $3.2 million to CIRTL institutions through spring 2017. Combined with a grant CIRTL received from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Great Lakes grant provides resources to expand programming at each university and support cross-network sharing of best practices in future faculty development.
With Great Lakes funding, CU-CIRTL will establish a Graduate and Postdoctoral Certificate Program. Participants can document skill development and competencies in teaching and mentoring, and interest groups can apply for small grants to develop learning community activities around evidence-based teaching, inclusive teaching and learning, and mentoring.
“We will create opportunities for STEM graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to earn certificates demonstrating engagement with evidence-based teaching practices and commitment to fostering inclusive environments in their laboratories and classrooms,” said Barbara A. Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the Graduate School.
She continued: “These activities will weave together professional development training pursued online and locally, expanding our partnership with Cornell’s Center for Teaching Excellence. We expect a third of CU-CIRTL participants will engage in higher-commitment activities disseminating their learning to larger, sometimes national, communities of scholars. A major focus will be on feasible opportunities for postdoctoral scholars to design and implement teaching innovations. Our new small-grant program will encourage scale-up of activities that support learning in graduate fields across our STEM disciplines.”
Cornell University’s CIRTL learning community, established in 2012, prepares graduate students and postdoctoral scholars for academic STEM careers.