The North Carolina Mathematics and Science Education Network (NC-MSEN) is one of the University-School Programs in the Access and Outreach Division of the Academic Affairs under the leadership of the University of North Carolina General Administration (UNC GA). NC-MSEN Network office is housed in room 404 on the second floor of the M.R. Spangler (Annex) building at UNC GA in Chapel Hill, NC. It provides statewide leadership for the improvement of mathematics and science teaching and learning in order to:
1. Strengthen the quality and increase the size of the teaching base in mathematics and science education
2. Increase the pool of students who graduate from North Carolina’s high schools prepared to pursue careers that require mathematics and science [North Carolina General Assembly, 1984 and 1986]. The NC-MSEN vision is to leverage the resources of The University of North Carolina System, in partnership with schools and the NC Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI), to enrich the professional knowledge and skills of mathematics and science teachers in every region of the state, to encourage and challenge underserved student groups academically, and to promote mathematics and scientific literacy among all students.
The NC-MSEN has two primary components: teacher professional development and pre-college program. Teacher professional development in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is provided through six professional development centers that are housed on UNC System campuses.
The NC-MSEN Pre-College Program, housed on four UNC System campuses, provides academic enrichment classes and activities to traditionally underserved middle and high school students. The purpose is to help broaden the pool of high school graduates who are prepared to pursue university-level majors that lead to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
In 1980-81, North Carolina universities graduated only 167 mathematics teachers for 620 openings and only 218 science teachers for 310 openings. Nearly half the junior high school mathematics and science teachers, and fully one-third of the high school mathematics and science teachers, were not properly certified for the subjects they were teaching. Business representatives advising state officials on economic development expressed their concern that inadequate education in science and mathematics was hampering the state's efforts to modernize and expand its economy. In response, efforts began on many state university campuses to bolster the education and re-education of mathematics and science teachers. It is a bit unfair to identify single events or individuals as "the" start of the Network. However, the record indicates that initiatives on two campuses, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNCCH) and University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), started the chain of actions leading to the establishment of the UNC Mathematics and Science Education Network.
In Chapel Hill, Chancellor Christopher Fordham was already known as a statewide leader in public service for his work on the Area Health Education Centers Network. In 1981, he established a local center for mathematics and science education which began offering summer workshops for middle school teachers. In the fall of 1982, he asked his faculty to prepare a plan for a network of centers. Submitted on December 10, 1982, the plan called for four centers, offering two programs: a 16-semester-hour curriculum for middle school teachers and a 36-semester-hour program for high school teachers. Representatives of the UNC General Administration helped in the preparation of this proposal.
Meanwhile, at UNCC, an interdisciplinary faculty committee was hard at work on science and mathematics education initiatives, supported by Dean Sherman Burson of Arts and Sciences and Chancellor E. K. Fretwell. Under the committee's guidance, UNCC hired a coordinator to work with school systems as well as the Discovery Place museum and began an active program of workshops for teachers.
By the spring of 1983, discussions were underway at UNC General Administration (GA) concerning possible state and GA support for these two initiatives. In May, GA staff and faculty from several campuses completed a plan for a "Network of Mathematics and Science Education Centers" to be developed over a five-year period. The plan was very similar to the one submitted to Chancellor Fordham, but it had been expanded to provide for pilot centers at UNCCH and UNCC and the phase-in of five additional centers at sites not yet identified. UNC President William Friday accepted the plan and announced the formation of the Network on August 1, 1983. President Friday assigned $160,000 in GA resources for the first year and directed that the network's "coordination unit" be established at UNCCH. Work began immediately, and Chancellor Fordham named Mathematics Professor William W. Smith as Interim Coordinator of Network operations.
While the pilot centers continued their offerings in 1983-84, meetings were held to frame a proposal to the legislature to establish MSEN on a permanent basis and to secure public support for the proposal. In July of 1984, the NC state legislature authorized and funded MSEN, not on a phased-in basis but all at once, following a key endorsement from the Governor Huntís Commission on Education for Economic Growth. On July 12, 1984, UNC General Administration established the Network more or less as we know it today, with eight teacher education centers on four-year campuses across the state, a research and development unit at North Carolina State University (NCSU), and a liaison center at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. By fall, Dr. Vinetta Jones was on the job as the first MSEN coordinator; and by the winter, centers were up and running at all ten sites. As of 2014, there are six centers: Appalachian State University (ASU), East Carolina University (ECU), Fayetteville State University (FSU), University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW), and Winston-Salem State University (WSSU).
With teacher education projects well underway, the Network embarked in 1985-86, on its second major effort, the MSEN Pre-College Program, designed to increase the number of minorities and females who have sufficient interest and preparation to pursue mathematics and science fields at the university level and beyond. Two grants, from the Carnegie Foundation and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, launched this effort and encouraged the 1986 legislature to provide new funds to MSEN, establishing Pre-College offices at the following four sites: Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), North Carolina State University (NCSU), University of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T SU), and University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). The established pattern in which private funding led to public support similarly expanded the Pre-College Program to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNCCH) in 1988, follwing a grant from the Carnegie Foundation. In 1989, Fayetteville State University (FSU) received a similar grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The legislature provided permanent funding for these two sites in 1992. In 2003, Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) joined the expanding Pre-College family. As of 2014, there are five Pre-College Program sites: Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), North Carolina State University (NCSU), Fayetteville State University (FSU), University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), and Winston-Salem State University (WSSU).
The North Carolina Mathematics and Science Education Network will continue in partnership with the NC Department of Public Instruction, the UNC Council for Professional Development and others, to create a prospect of increased achievement for all North Carolina students. As a leader in science, mathematics, technology and Engineering professional development as well as education research spanning K-16, the Network will remain at the helm of national and state education reform efforts. The North Carolina Mathematics and Science Education Network is proud of our contributions over the past two decades--as we anticipate many years of further service to North Carolina public.