Augustana Introduces New STEM Composite Major

new mathematics/science composite major

Augustana today announced its newest major, STEM composite.

The STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) composite major is an interdisciplinary program in the natural sciences which must be declared as a second major in conjunction with another course of study. Pairing a strong background in math and/or science with a degree in journalism, business or secondary education, for example, will strengthen the resumes of future graduates.

While this secondary major may be paired with any major, one of the primary goals in the design of the curriculum was to complement the 7-12 secondary education major. STEM composite majors will have the flexibility to specialize in multiple subjects including biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics, allowing them to apply to a variety of teaching positions after graduation and certification.

This major was born out of a need for teachers proficient in multiple math and science areas around the Midwest.

“Certification in two areas related to math and/or sciences increases marketability for graduates entering the teaching profession,” said Dr. Martha Gregg, associate professor of mathematics.

Area teachers agree that completing the STEM composite and secondary education majors will give students a distinct advantage. Cindy Kroon, president of South Dakota Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2015-2017) and mathematics instructor at Montrose High School says, “[Smaller] schools will definitely be interested in this candidate. There is rarely a need for a full-time biology teacher, for example. They are almost always hoping to hire a biology, chemistry and physics combination. Many of the math majors are also teaching physics. [Multiple certifications] would be a huge plus in the interview.”

In 2014, a team of Augustana faculty applied for funding from the National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. They received a Capacity Building grant to prepare the institution to address the recognized and growing national need to increase quantity and improve quality of the high school teaching workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Development of the composite major has been an important part of the Capacity Building project, which also encompassed several other initiatives.

In 2016, Augustana partnered with the state Department of Education to conduct a survey of all math and science teachers in the state. In 2017, grant staff piloted an induction program to support new teachers as they graduate from Augustana and enter the teaching profession. 

All of these components of the Capacity Building grant are laying the groundwork for a second grant, which will expand Augustana’s ability to recruit and educate students to become highly qualified STEM high school teachers, especially for high-needs schools. A particular focus will be to educate and support students from underrepresented groups to become STEM teachers.