Undergraduate students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees at The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) are getting a financial helping hand in the form of scholarship opportunities.
Through a strong collaboration involving UTPA's College of Science and Mathematics, the College of Education and several independent school districts in the South Texas region, the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program is now available and will provide two dozen scholarships for STEM students.
"We need to have a mechanism to attract students to physics and chemistry, and providing this scholarship is a good recruitment tool. It is a competitive scholarship and it is prestigious because not all universities have this program. It is somewhat unique," Dr. Edgar Corpuz, assistant professor of physics and geology, said.
The program seeks to increase the quantity and quality of secondary science and mathematics teachers in the Rio Grande Valley, particularly since students will now have more stringent science requirements in high school.
"We are dealing with a critical shortage in physics and chemistry teachers. Incoming freshmen are now going to be required to take physics starting this fall, so we need to address the issue," Corpuz said.
With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the scholarship opportunities aim to address the shortage of certified high school chemistry and physics teachers, not just in South Texas, but across the country.
"We are trying to recruit the STEM students so that we have highly qualified teachers to deal with this acute shortage of science teachers. This is not just in the Valley, it is a nationwide problem and we need to find a way to deal with it," Corpuz said.
The foundation awarded the University a $1.2 million grant for scholarships to support 24 future teachers of science and mathematics. The program is in honor of the late Dr. Robert M. Noyce, inventor of the integrated chip. First authorized under NSF Authorization Act of 2002, the Noyce program responds to the critical need for K-12 teachers by encouraging talented STEM students to pursue teaching careers, particularly in secondary schools.
"The problem will become more pronounced when physics will be required later this year," Corpuz said. "There is not much interest by students to go into teaching but I believe through the scholarships, UTPA is doing its best to change that."
The program enables STEM majors to obtain a bachelor's in physical science, physics or chemistry along with grades 8-12 teaching certification.
"Basically, they have a STEM degree plus the added bonus of a teaching certification, which makes these students more marketable because they have more flexibility," Corpuz said. "It is a win-win situation."
The scholarship pays for tuition, room and board, books, transportation and miscellaneous expenses.
"It is a free ride scholarship, and everything is taken care of for the student. It is everything that is associated with their preparation to become great teachers. Plus, they get a laptop too," Corpuz said.
Scholarship recipients are required to complete two years of teaching in a high-need school district for each year of support.
A student who wishes to apply for the Robert Noyce Scholarship must satisfy the following criteria:
• U.S. citizen, national or permanent resident
• Must be an undergraduate student majoring in a field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).
• Must be a junior or senior at the start of the scholarship award.
• Have a GPA of 3.0 or better in Math and Science and an overall GPA of 2.75 or better.
• Must complete an interview with the Robert Noyce Scholarship Committee.
• Student must pursue a STEM degree leading to teaching certification in grades 8-12 Physical Science, Physics, Chemistry or Math at UTPA.
• Must be willing to teach in a high-need school district in Texas.
July 9, 2012 (Fall 2012)
November 23, 2012 (Spring 2013)
For more information on the Robert Noyce Scholarship, contact Dr. Edgar Corpus at (956) 665-2153 or visit utpa.edu/noyce.