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November-December 2012

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Advancing STEM Undergraduate Learning: Preparing the Nation's Future Faculty

Graduate students and post-doctoral scholars at research universities will shape the future of undergraduate education in the natural and social sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (the STEM disciplines) in the United States. In 2009 alone, more than 41,000 doctorates were awarded in STEM fields, and if employment trends hold, roughly one in every three STEM PhDs will become faculty or instructional staff within six years of receiving their degree.

The authors gratefully acknowledge Don Gillian-Daniel and Sarah Miller for their help with the initial design for data collection and analysis. They thank Steve Ackerman, Kitch Barnicle, Aaron Brower, Chris Carlson-Dakes, Don Gillian-Daniel, and Kristyn Masters for their leadership in the Delta Program; Kristyn Masters, Karen Mittelstadt and Gina Spitz for their careful review of the manuscript; and the Delta course and program instructors and core staff for their essential contributions to the successes of the Delta learning community and future faculty. This work was funded by a supplement to the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Grant No. DUE-0717768. The Delta Program is funded by the Office of the Provost and the Graduate School of UW-Madison, with additional support provided by the UW–Madison Colleges of Letters and Science, Agricultural and Life Sciences, and Engineering, as well as the School of Education and the Institute for Biology Education. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.

Since almost 80 percent of doctoral students are trained at only 100 research universities, the graduate schools of these institutions are a critical leverage point for improving undergraduate STEM education across the country. If a significant fraction of these universities were to intentionally prepare future STEM faculty as teachers of undergraduates, they would seed the diverse array of undergraduate institutions across the country with thousands of faculty and instructional staff who both teach effectively and continually improve the teaching-learning process.

Christine Pfund ( is associate director of the Delta Program in Research, Teaching and Learning (Delta) and a researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research at UW-Madison.

Robert Mathieu ( is a professor and chair of the Department of Astronomy and co-faculty director of Delta at UW-Madison; he is also PI of the CIRTL Network.

Ann Austin ( is a professor in the higher, adult, and lifelong education program at Michigan State University and co-PI of the CIRTL Network.

Mark Connolly ( is a researcher with the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research at UW-Madison.

Brian Manske ( involved in Delta and the research shared in this article. Manske is now an adjunct professor of biology at Nicolet College

Katie Moore ( involved in Delta and the research shared in this article. Moore is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Rutgers University.

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