Apr 21, 2023

Dordt University receives a $1,199,997 grant from the National Science Foundation

This grant will be distributed over the course of five years primarily through scholarships for students who are science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education majors

Dordt University has received a $1,199,997 grant that will be distributed over the course of five years primarily through scholarships for students who are science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education majors. The grant comes from the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which is a renewal of a National Science Foundation grant that Dordt received six years ago.

“The scholarships are $14,500 per year, eligible for juniors and seniors,” says Dr. Valorie Zonnefeld, professor of mathematics and the principal investigator for the grant. “There is a two-year requirement to teach in a high needs school for each year that the scholarship is received.”

The grant seeks to address the national shortage of STEM teachers, especially in high need rural schools where up to 54% of positions in STEM fields are unfilled. “A unique challenge for STEM teachers in rural districts is that they are often the only STEM expert in the district,” writes Zonnefeld and her co-principal investigator team in their proposal. “This requires teachers to not only teach all the high school math and science courses, but to also lead STEM education initiatives for the district.”

Dordt University is uniquely positioned to increase the number of highly qualified STEM teachers serving in high need rural schools and to act as a leader in rural STEM teacher preparation in part because of Dordt’s rural setting, which often attracts students who are from and return to rural settings. Dordt has a robust, reputable education program and expert STEM undergraduate teaching.

“I’m excited to continue the progress that Dordt has made in preparing highly effective STEM teachers,” says Zonnefeld. “Dordt has great STEM education programs; it’s reaffirming when outside organizations recognize our programs, too.”

Dr. Tom Clark, professor of mathematics and a co-principal investigator for the grant, says that Zonnefeld has put in a tremendous amount of work on the grant over the past six years and that the renewal shows that the National Science Foundation (who sponsors the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program) recognizes that Dordt “followed through on the promises of the first grant, made a difference, and is now poised to continue that work in more focused ways.”

Dr. Ryan Zonnefeld, professor of education and a co-investigative principal for the Noyce grant, says that, since the first Noyce grant was implemented in 2017, a total of 30 students have participated in the Noyce program, which is impressive. “The new grant will continue this work and expand the focus to also supporting our Noyce Scholars who have graduated and are serving as teachers across the nation. We will examine how to use grant resources to support these practicing teachers in their continued professional development as STEM teachers.”

Dordt University is rooted in preparing Christian teachers; it is part of the reason why Dordt was founded, says Dr. David Mulder, professor of education and co-principal for the Noyce grant. “Removing a financial barrier is a huge benefit for getting more folks interested in STEM to join the teaching profession. I have the privilege of serving as academic adviser for many of our Noyce Scholars, and these scholarships are a big deal for them achieving their goals of becoming math, science, or engineering teachers.”

“Great STEM teachers are vital to providing every student with a high-quality STEM education,” adds Valorie Zonnefeld.

About Dordt University

As an institution of higher education committed to the Reformed Christian perspective, Dordt University equips students, faculty, alumni, and the broader community to work toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life. Located in Sioux Center, Iowa, Dordt is a comprehensive university named to the best college lists by U.S. News and World Report, The Wall Street Journal, Times Higher Education, Forbes.com, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review.

A picture of campus behind yellow prairie flowers