Virginia works to grow, diversify STEM educator pipeline

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Gov. Ralph Northam is touting his proposed $1 million investment to increase pathways for students to become STEM educators at Virginia’s two public historically black colleges and universities through the national UTeach program.

UTeach is currently functioning at 45 colleges and universities across the country, and Virginia is the first state in the nation to propose investing public funds toward establishing a UTeach program, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

This investment will serve to increase diversity in Virginia’s teacher workforce, and address the shortage of STEM educators in the Commonwealth.

“The demand for STEM education is growing rapidly, and we must ensure that students of color, students from lower-income school divisions, and students in other under-represented populations are not left behind,” Northam said. “UTeach will help address our existing teacher shortage and create a pool of diverse, talented STEM educators who are equipped to ensure Virginia students have the knowledge, skills, and mindsets necessary to thrive in a fast changing, technologically-advanced, global society.”

Virginia is expected to add nearly 150,000 new STEM jobs in the next five years alone, with opportunities expected to increase for years to come. To prepare students to thrive in a 21st century workforce, the Commonwealth must increase and diversify the number of STEM educators in Virginia’s public schools. Currently in Virginia, 52 percent of the K-12 student population are students of color, while only 18 percent of educators are teachers of color.

“The Northam administration works hard to ensure every Virginia student has what they need to succeed, no matter who they are or where they live,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “This includes making sure students have high-quality teachers who are STEM-literate, and can prepare them to thrive in a 21st century workforce. Governor Northam’s proposed investment in the UTeach program at Virginia State University and Norfolk State University further demonstrates his unwavering commitment to education equity.”

Norfolk State University and Virginia State University will be among the first HBCUs to pursue implementing the UTeach program. The program will enable students at the two schools to receive their secondary teaching certification while also completing a STEM major, without adding and time or cost to their degree.

The UTeach Institute and the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) will support the two schools throughout the planning and implementation period.

“NMSI is grateful to have worked with Gov. Northam and Secretary Qarni to expand UTeach to two outstanding public HBCUs in Virginia,” said Jonathan Durfield, NMSI’s Vice President for Growth. “This state support provides an excellent funding model for work that NMSI, United Negro College Fund, and UTeach Institute are leading to expand UTeach to HBCUs across the nation.”

Northam has proposed a $1 million investment over the next biennium to implement UTeach at Norfolk State University and Virginia State University. This investment is part of a public-private partnership, and is made possible by the generosity of Dr. Ernst Volgenau, former Chief Executive Officer of SRA International, who has pledged $2.5 million to support the UTeach program at the two schools. Dr. Volgenau has been a strong supporter of public higher education in Virginia for many years, and previously served as the rector for George Mason University.

This is part of the historic investment in Virginia’s public HBCUs and their students, which have been systemically underfunded for far too long. The governor’s proposed budget also allocates nearly $300 million in new funding for Virginia State University and Norfolk State University, as well as additional capital support and funding for programs to help first-generation students overcome barriers to graduation.

         
 

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