The national and statewide push to promote STEM education has taken a critical step forward on the SUNY New Paltz campus.
The college has developed a five-year master’s program which will act as a hybrid between the School of Science and Engineering and the School of Education. The project has been described as “a program of study that enables students to earn a BA in geology or chemistry and an MAT in adolescence education in just five years.”
The program has revised the process for obtaining a Masters of Arts and Teaching, (MAT), and Masters of Science in Education, (MSEd), streamlining it for those seeking to teach STEM-related courses in 7-12 grade schools. In the five-year program, the MAT requirements go from 46 to 30 credits due to the overlap between graduate and undergraduate courses.
Rosemary Millham, Ph.D., an assistant professor of secondary education, has been the leading advocate on the proposal, retooling the specifics numerous times in the past few years. Millham, who began teaching at SUNY New Paltz in 2008, has been pushing for the implementation of a five-year hybrid master’s program since day one. Dealing with low enrollment in the department due to a disinterest in the lab work and the effects of the Great Recession, Millham led an uphill battle to revise the curricular system.
“When we went through the initial steps of the process, we had to meet with every department in the School of Science and Engineering, with [the administration], and address state regulations,” Millham said. “We finally finished last spring and got the approval for chemistry in December of 2015 and shortly thereafter got the approval for geology and earth science in January of 2016.”
Millham said that the program for physics was still in development but would be ready for approval in the coming years. Millham has been encouraged by the administration’s enthusiasm behind the project, commenting that their marketing plan has the potential to entice students to the ambitious program. Three students already signed up for the five-year program before there was even concrete documentation, a sign of progress in Millham’s opinion.
Aside from providing a smooth transition for students to graduate school, Millham also said that the savings amount to roughly $4,500. The overlap between the two education and science tracks allows for students to pursue their studies while also having a practical backup plan as a science teacher, according to Millham.
“Why wouldn’t you want both?” Millham asked. “The programs are very strong and our students leave New Paltz with a very strong background in both teaching and science.”
According to Millham, through this revamped program students can become “dual threats” in both biology and chemistry, which in turn makes them more attractive prospects to schools when seeking employment.
Millham, who spent 16 years working and teaching at NASA before coming to campus, said that when she first arrived she was asked constantly about a five-year master’s program for STEM education by prospective students and parents. Since the college didn’t have one, she decided to create one.
According to Millham, the science departments embraced the concept, with the broader scientific community off-campus promoting the idea as well. Both the National Association of Geological Teachers and the National Earth Science Teacher’s Association have begun handing out electronic copies of the brochures for the program, as well as the Mid-Hudson Teacher Center.
“It’s been a long process, but it’s been well worth it,” Millham said.