Engineering Graduate Prepares to Teach, Wins AFCEA STEM Teachers Scholarship

September 2012 By
Sarah Sams shows off her award for the AFCEA STEM Teachers for America's Future Scholarship

OXFORD, Miss. - With a bachelor's degree in engineering, Sarah Sams is not the typical teacher candidate.

"I originally planned to be a civil engineer, but now I cannot imagine leaving the classroom," said the Jackson native, who graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Engineering in May and enrolled this fall as a graduate student in the School of Education.

Advancing the university's efforts to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, Sams has been awarded the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's STEM Teachers for America's Future Scholarship for pursuing a graduate degree with plans to teach a STEM subject at a U.S. middle or secondary school.

"I am so excited that Sarah will be able to take part in the professional learning community that has been created at the Center for Mathematics and Science Education while she is pursuing her Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction degree that will lead to teacher certification," said Alice Steimle, associate director of CMSE. "She will have the opportunity to continue to grow professionally, which will directly impact her future work as a teacher of STEM. Sarah is an excellent recipient of the scholarship."

Besides the $5,000 scholarship, as a graduating AFCEA STEM Scholar, Sams will receive a $1,000 AFCEA Science Teaching Tool grant each year for three years if she continues to teach a STEM subject.

Future teachers like Sams will also be able to use these grants to fund hardware and software, other classroom tools, field trips, STEM-focused clubs and other activities.

The scholarships were made possible by contributions from Booz Allen Hamilton, Terremark Worldwide, AFCEA International and several of AFCEA's regional chapters.

Sams refers to a presentation by John O'Haver, professor of chemical engineering and CMSE director, in one of her senior engineering leadership classes for inspiring her to pursue teaching.

"(O'Haver) was a high school teacher for many years and later decided to go back to school to obtain his engineering degree," she said. "He has had such an impact on so many of his students, and that day, I knew I was not meant to be an engineer; I was meant to be a teacher."

The CMSE aims to improve mathematics and science education in Mississippi by fostering interaction between academic and K-12 education communities, supporting the implementation of research-based methods in the classroom and promoting interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

For more information about programs in the CMSE, go to

For more information about the University of Mississippi's Innovations in STEM Education Initiative, go to