Academics & Research

$1 million endowment aids future STEM generation

A 2012 American Chemistry Council study reports that Texas is the largest chemical producing state in the U.S. with $145 billion in revenue and is responsible for more than 70,000 jobs in Texas alone. However, the shortage of available and skilled workers poses a threat to chemical companies looking to expand.

In order to prevent this from happening, ExxonMobil Corp. has given a $1 million endowment to the University’s teachHOUSTON program to train science and math teachers so that students may further their education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics within the next five years.

“The teachHOUSTON program had to raise $1 million in its endowment to qualify for the matching funds,” said co-director of teachHOUSTON Jeff Morgan. “This gift will have a tremendous impact in future years as these and other funds grow in our endowment.”

TeachHOUSTON started in 2007 with 14 students and is a replication of a program called UTeach that was created at the University of Texas. Through a partnership between the College of Natural Science and Mathematics and the College of Education, the program allows students to have teaching opportunities throughout their four years at UH and is changing the way science and math teachers are trained.

Nearly 340 students are enrolled in the teachHOUSTON program at UH, and the goal is to graduate 100 teachers per year. Through its efforts, the program has continually helped students find their calling in the field of teaching, like biology senior Katherine Palmer.

“At first I was not sure what I wanted to do,” Palmer said, “but after my first class, or Step 1 in the program, I fell in love with the program, and that is when I realized that I wanted to become a teacher, and now I want to teach high school biology.”

There are 33 universities across the nation that replicate the UTeach program with training opportunities similar to teachHOUSTON, and through its endowment, Exxon is likewise helping prepare a more stable pipeline of skilled workers in STEM fields specifically for Houston.

“Almost all our graduates stay in Houston and work in our local school districts. It’s a win-win situation,” Morgan said. “Local industries will benefit from improved math and science teaching in area schools, and UH will benefit from it as well.”

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