Feature News

North Central College Receives $1.45 Million National Science Foundation Grant

Jun 17, 2024

North Central College has been awarded a five-year, $1.45 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. This is the College’s largest NSF grant to date and the fourth major NSF grant awarded to the College in the past two and a half years, totaling more than $3 million in research and programming support for students in the STEM field, according to Shelly Galasso '05, executive director of the College's Office of Sponsored Research and Programs.

The grant will go toward funding the College’s Commitment to Recruit, Educate, and Assist Teachers in Equity (CREATE) project, which was designed and will be implemented by the principal investigators (PIs) Dr. Lindsay Wexler, associate professor of education, Dr. Susan Kempinger, assistant professor of physics, and Dr. Chandreyee Mitra, associate professor of biology. CREATE aims to prepare and support culturally responsive high school teachers in biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, and mathematics.

Clockwise from top left: Lindsay Wexler, Susan Kempinger, Shelly Galasso and Chandreyee Mitra.
Clockwise from top left: Lindsay Wexler, Susan Kempinger, Shelly Galasso and Chandreyee Mitra.


“This significant grant from the National Science Foundation is a credit to our outstanding faculty and their ongoing commitment to equity-minded education, particularly within the fields of science and mathematics,” said Abiódún Gòkè-Pariolá, North Central College’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Projects funded by the NSF are known to not only advance, but to transform the frontiers of knowledge, and I am deeply proud of our faculty for their work to expand opportunities within STEM education.”

More than $800,000 will go toward awarding scholarships to undergraduate students—with a focus on those with financial need and those who are underrepresented in the field of education—committed to becoming STEM teachers in high-needs schools throughout the Chicago area. The groundwork for the $1.45 million implementation grant was laid by a $75,000 NSF Robert Noyce planning grant secured in 2021 by the same PI team, including Dr. Alicia Okpareke, associate professor of education, who is no longer with the College. The CREATE project represents an interdisciplinary collaboration between North Central’s College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education and Health Sciences, as well as partnerships with Elgin’s School District U-46 and Elgin Community College.

“As our economy becomes increasingly STEM-based, it’s never been more important to ensure that our students are getting the education they need to thrive, and that starts with making sure students have high-quality STEM teachers in their schools, no matter where they come from or where they go to school,” said Congressman Bill Foster, who represents the 11th District of Illinois, and who prior to becoming a member of the Congress worked as a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). “I’m proud that North Central College is focusing on recruiting STEM educators from diverse backgrounds who are committed to expanding STEM educational opportunities in all communities, and I am proud that the National Science Foundation will provide vital resources for this important work.”

“Recruiting and retaining diverse teachers has been shown to improve academic outcomes for all students,” said Wexler. “This grant increases our ability to recruit, support, and train new Illinois STEM teachers, who will then educate diverse populations of students in local, underserved communities and work proactively towards reducing academic opportunity gaps.”

Those interested in learning more about this project can contact Drs. Wexler, Kempinger or Mitra.

For more information about NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, visit their web page.