Melanie Koss is the NIU College of Education’s first Senior Faculty Fellow.
Launched this spring, the program recognizes and rewards high-performing, tenured faculty and promotes research and/or scholarly activity in the college.
Recipients of the Senior Faculty Fellow title receive either $3,500 to help finance their project or release from one course; the college will grant one Senior Faculty Fellowship per year.
Koss, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, will use the one-course release to further develop the blossoming relationship she is nurturing between the Children’s Literature Teaching Collection (CLTC) and STEM Read, an NIU STEAM program.
“I have plans for partnerships, professional development and scholarship with STEM Outreach,” says Koss, director of the CLTC, “and I thought that if I could get time and support from the college to do the work – extra time is something we all need – then we could put some things together.”
Calling the CLTC/STEM collaboration “a natural pairing as we both believe in integrating quality literature related to STEM concepts into classrooms and the curriculum,” Koss wrote in her application letter that her role will focus on “providing the literacy research and curriculum components, particularly in the areas of children’s and young adult literature.”
“We’re still trying to figure out what it’s going to look like, but it’s really exciting,” she says. “I feel like it’s a validation for recognizing the importance of literature in STEM. Literature, to me, is a springboard to so many of the other skills and content areas.”
Among her ideas are practitioner articles based on the STEM Read field trips that bring hundreds of young readers to the NIU campus each fall and spring to explore science, technology, engineering and math through the magic of books.
She also plans to create proposals for several books, one of which would serve as a how-to guide on developing STEM Read field trips and another that would launch an ongoing series with specific information, guidelines and resources for each field trip.
For her counterparts in higher education, she will develop a pitch for an academic book based on research that connects literature and literacy to STEM programming. Koss and STEM Read partners Gillian King-Cargile and Kristin Brynteson hope to present their work at academic conferences; their first will take place at the Illinois Reading Council’s October meeting.
Online communication for the masses also is already underway, including blog posts and podcasts.
“To know that the college and the deans believe in this project is really exciting,” Koss says. “It gives me the time and space to work on this; I was already doing it on top of everything else, but to have time and space and support is really cool.”
Eligible applicants for the Senior Faculty Fellow award are full-time faculty with at least five years of service at NIU, consistently high performance on the Faculty Service Report over a five-year period and substantial research productivity over the last three years.
During her two-year term, Koss also will represent the college at various functions and deliver two presentations at college events.
Koss is already “off to a great start on her lengthy list of anticipated projects and with the very successful STEM Read Summer Institute for Educators,” Dean Laurie Elish-Piper says.
“Her work as the College of Education Senior Faculty Fellow will allow her to leverage her expertise as a leading scholar in the field of children’s and young adult literature,” Elish-Piper says.
“This means delivering programs in collaboration with the NIU P-20 Center and partner schools, conducting research and disseminating the findings to help teachers incorporate STEM-focused literature, experiences and field trips into their teaching.”