Skip To Nav

Site-specific menu

Share |

Mid-career professionals, recent grads sought for science fellowships

by Cheryl Roland

Oct. 13, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of a middle school classroom.
Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship Program
KALAMAZOO--People with science, mathematics or engineering degrees who want to teach and help reform the way math and science are taught in the United States can apply now to become part of an elite fellowship program that offers a $30,000 stipend and a chance to revolutionize middle school and high school education.

Western Michigan University is one of six Michigan universities now accepting applications for entry into the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship Program. The graduate fellowship program offers those selected the opportunity to spend a transformative year earning a master's degree and teaching in a high-need middle or high school classroom.

Now in its second year, the program will offer up to 15 fellowships at WMU and each of five other Michigan schools. Deadlines to apply to begin the program in late spring 2012 are Wednesday, Oct. 19, for early decisions, and Jan. 10 for final applications. The application process for all fellowships is managed by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and requires submission of transcripts and letters of recommendation as well as interviews and testing. Complete information about the fellowships and the application process can be found online at

Those selected as fellows will be notified in April for the program that begins in May at WMU. Last April, the inaugural class of 12 WMU fellows were selected, and they are now immersed in their studies and working in the classroom in one of three public school districts that are WMU's partners in the effort--Battle Creek, Benton Harbor and Kalamazoo.

The fellowship program is aimed at those with bachelor's degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM programs. The program began in Indiana two years ago and is in its first year now in both Michigan and Ohio. In Michigan, it is funded by a $16.7 million grant from the Kellogg Foundation. Those selected will attend an enriched, school-based master's-level teacher education program. Throughout the program, their coursework will be blended with teaching experiences completed alongside a master teacher in a high-need middle or high school classroom.

The opportunity is open to career changers who already hold undergraduate degrees in the arts and sciences as well as recent grads and students who will graduate this year. Both types of applicants were among those named to WMU's first class of fellows.

Karen Deppe of Marshall, Mich., who worked as a metallurgical engineer for more than a decade after earning her undergraduate degree, is among the STEM career changers in the program. She says she's learning from the more recent graduates and providing them with the benefits of the lessons she learned in the workplace.

"I believe those of us who have been out in the workplace can share life lessons with the younger students," she says, "while the more recent college graduates can certainly teach us some of the newer teacher training techniques and methodologies."

Another member of the first WMU class is Loretta Vaara of Holland, Mich. She says she's a perfect example of the kind of career change the fellowships make possible. She has a mathematics degree from WMU, an MBA from Wayne State University and a track record as an engineer and project manager in the automotive industry. She was also ready to return to the work force after time off to focus on her family.

"Teaching was always in the back of my mind, even in college," Vaara says. "But I knew what a teacher did, and I wanted to try something different. I loved my career, and in hindsight, I know it will make me a better teacher. I was a math major in college and ended up in engineering and project management--areas I didn't even consider in high school. I'll be able to tell students about the career paths that will open up for them with a technical background."