New NSF Grant Aims to Foster ‘Effective, Caring, and Empathetic’ Teachers Equipped with Anti-Racism Training



By Linsey Maughan
Associate Professor of Biology and Physics Andrew Howard

Illinois Institute of Technology has received a new $1.1 million National Science Foundation grant to fund scholarships for undergraduate students enrolled in the university’s joint bachelor of science and master of art in teaching program with National Louis University. The joint-degree program places special emphasis on anti-racist training for ninth through 12th grade teachers. Undergraduate students majoring in mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics are the primary targets for this program. 

The NSF grant provides scholarship funding toward two years of the joint-degree program, which is typically completed in five years. Sixteen students, four per year starting in fall 2022, will receive $15,000 in scholarship funding annually during their fourth year at Illinois Tech and their final year at NLU, completing the requirements of the joint B.S. and M.A.T. degree program. 

The funds covering the scholarships were awarded through NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which is designed to help STEM majors and professionals prepare to become K–12 teachers, and places special emphasis on getting strong STEM teachers into high-need school districts. The program requires scholarship recipients to work in disadvantaged schools for at least the number of years that they received scholarship funding. 

Associate Professor of Biology and Physics Andrew Howard, who helped launch the joint-degree program between Illinois Tech and NLU, is serving as a co-principal investigator for the new NSF grant alongside Eun Kyung Ko, associate professor of elementary education and science at NLU, and Vishodana Thamotharan, assistant professor and director of STEM initiatives at NLU. Their project is titled “Project ENACTS: Engaging Noyce Scholars in Anti-Racist Community-Based Teaching in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics,” and has specific goals related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

“The priority of this program is getting students into [teaching jobs in schools in] disadvantaged neighborhoods,” Howard says. “Illinois Tech has always been particularly good at bringing in first-generation college students. Students are successful even if they come from lower middle-class backgrounds. What Illinois Tech is going to do for those students is give them the best STEM education we can. What NLU is going to do is give them an exposure to anti-racism as part of their training to become effective, caring, and empathetic math or science teachers. The anti-racism education is something that they have made one of their specialties.” 

In addition to providing scholarship funding to students, the NSF grant will cover summer salaries for the three principal investigators overseeing the program as well as smaller stipends and salaries for some others involved in the project. Chicago Public Schools and Chicago International Charter School Northtown Academy are also collaborating on this project as district and school site partners.  

Photo: Associate Professor of Biology and Physics Andrew Howard