UND grad and North Dakota native among Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellows


David L. Dodds

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Arts & Sciences


Joseph Birrenkott, Durbin, N.D., to train at Purdue University on $30,000 stipend; program aims to bring real-world science, technology, and math to high-need Indiana classrooms

University of North Dakota class of 2013 graduate Joseph Birrenkott recently found out he's headed to Purdue University to complete a special intensive master's degree program that will prepare him to teach math and science in Indiana's high-need urban and rural public schools.

On May 22, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announced 28 top recent graduates from across the country, including Birrenkott, as the 2013 class of Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellows.

Birrenkott, Durbin, N.D., graduated cum laude from UND with a degree in chemistry. While at UND, he served as a chemistry tutor, general laboratory teaching assistant, residential teaching assistant and was affiliated with the University's Upward Bound program. Upward Bound assists disadvantaged high school students in developing and enhancing their academic and motivational skills so they may graduate and successfully enroll in a postsecondary educational institution.

Birrenkott also was a UND Presidential Scholarship recipient.

Each Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellow receives a $30,000 stipend to complete a master's program at one of four Indiana partner universities—Ball State University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Purdue University, and the University of Indianapolis. These four universities have redesigned teacher preparation to focus on a year-long experience in local classrooms, as well as specific STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)teaching approaches.

Following a rigorous year-long application and selection process, the Foundation has named 30 new Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellows, 28 of whom will start their programs this summer, with another two later in the year. After a year of classroom-based preparation, Fellows commit to teach for at least three years in a high-need Indiana school, with ongoing support and mentoring. The new Fellows, who begin their master's work this summer, will be ready to enter their own classrooms in fall 2014.

The Fellowship has been funded with grants from Lilly Endowment Inc. and supplemental state support. The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation of Princeton, N.J. administers the program. Launched in Indiana in 2007, the Fellowship has since been established in three other states—Ohio, Michigan, and New Jersey.

"We estimate that the Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellows named to date will reach more than 22,000 students every year," said Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. "The Fellows represent a 25 percent annual increase in Indiana's supply of STEM teachers. Veteran teachers are reporting that, even in their clinical year, Fellows are an extraordinary resource in the classroom. Beyond that, the four university partners have enhanced the way they prepare STEM teachers, and that too has a ripple effect for the other teachers they graduate, and for classrooms around the state."