red Supported Site Cornell University: Recruitment


  • From 2008 to the present, approximately 1/3 of attendees at Cornell Teacher Education Program information sessions learned of the sessions from in-class announcements in introductory Physics courses. Since 2009, attendance has been further augmented by contacting all students (including life science, physical science, engineering, and math majors) enrolled in introductory Physics courses by email about CTE and PhysTEC. More than half of our successful UTA applicants have found out about the program through email advertising of information sessions and of the application process. The remainder of the successful applicants typically learned of our program from experiencing PhysTEC UTAs in their recitation sections, in the weekly homework parties, or through announcements their instructors made in lectures.  
  • Six of 20 UTAs enrolled in Education courses in Fall 2009, and seven enrolled in Education classes in the Spring 2010.  
  • Students 'In the Pipeline' as of June 2011:
    • Jonathan completed his student teaching in physics with part-time TIR Jim Overhiser during the 2010-11 acedemic year. He has recently interviewed for a position in the Washington, D.C. school system.  
    • Ayelet, a Master UTA, graduated this May, and is currently beginning a MAT program in math and physics teaching at Hunter College. 
    • Andrew, a Master UTA, graduated this May, and is about to begin a year as a TA at the Cornell Medical College in Doha, Qatar. Upon his return he is planning a career in H.S. physics teaching.
    • Jonathan, a recent Master UTA will be doing his student teaching with part-time TIR Jim Overhiser next semester.
    • Christina and Tony are continuing as Master UTAs and have become accepted 'members' of the CTE program,
    • 3 other UTAs are continuing as Master UTAs.
  • All students in introductory and core physics courses, as well as all Physics graduate students, are now provided information via emails and/or in-class announcements on physics teaching as a career option, and are directed to resources that provide more information.
  • Posters and brochures provided by PhysTEC and direct contacts by the TIRs and PI advertising Noyce Fellowships promote this highly motivating program.
  • Our PhysTEC web site provides a comprehensive resource for recruiting students into physics and physics teaching. An improved interface and graphic look has been created and the site has generated many inquiries about the UTA program and physics teacher education at Cornell.
  • In 2010-11 we participated in two on-campus career fairs, coordinating our efforts with Cornell Teacher Education. This resulted in several one-on-one conversations about teaching careers with physical science, engineering and math students who might not otherwise have found us. These efforts yielded a couple of our UTA applicants, one of whom was accepted for Fall 2011. 
  • The two part-time TIRs met with interested students at a local coffee shop on more than ten occasions for a "Teachers' Tea & Coffee Hour". It was a productive opportunity to probe student opinions and encourage them to pursue physics teaching in a comfortable off-campus setting. 


  • An announcement in early Fall 2010 that both Cornell's Education Department and Cornell's Teacher Education program would be eliminated cast a dark shadow on recruiting efforts for several months. The announcement in Spring 2011 that the CTE program would be sustained (via an as-yet-to-be-determined structure) alleviated much of the student concern, but the transition from a central department to a distributed program still presents us with challenges.
  • Although we have made significant inroads in recruiting students from Engineering, students majoring in the life and chemical sciences remain a large and largely untapped pool of potential recruits. Many life science students do not take physics until their junior year, when it is difficult to make program adjustments to include education and additional physics courses.
  • Extensive summer and academic year paid research opportunities for our undergraduates attract students - including those interested in teaching - toward research careers. To counteract this pull, we have begun cataloging on our website summer teaching/education-related opportunities, and would appreciate suggestions from other PhysTEC sites. We have also proposed a PhysTEC Teaching Experience for Undergraduates (TEU), analogous to the NSF's REU program. This year, we especially pushed opportunities to obtain REU experiences at sites where Physics Education Research (PER) is a focus, although we had no applicants among our students. 


  • All of our recruiting efforts and materials have been cataloged on our website, including a calendar of recruiting opportunities, recruiting emails to students and faculty, presentations and posters. This will make conducting these activities in subsequent years more routine, and should be of use to other PhysTEC sites.

Lessons Learned

  • The key parts of recruiting are (1) building relationships with students and (2) changing the attitudes of faculty, graduate TAs and our undergraduates toward careers in secondary science teaching. The TIRs have been critical in building the required relationships, and have created a "safe place" within the Physics Department for students with teaching interests. Multiple personal meetings are particularly important to both relationship building and attitudinal shifts. Well engaged Master UTAs can also be extremely convincing partners and advocates in these areas, as demonstrated by one of our Master UTAs.
  • Career fairs provide an opportunity to connect with students who are uncertain about their futures - including those who have been driven forward toward a research career even though their prospects in such a career may be weak - and to discuss with them the many merits of STEM teaching careers.
  • Making connections to other physics related student groups, including physics outreach programs and the Society of Physics Students, helps to foster a sense of community and inclusion for students with teaching interests.
  • Online surveys are a very time efficient way to educate students about STEM career choices and about high school teaching careers, and to collect information on their attitudes toward teaching careers that can be useful in designing marketing strategies.


  • The PI and/or TIRs made presentations to graduate teaching assistants and faculty at course meetings for nearly all of the introductory physics courses. Topics discussed included the need for more physics majors and more physics teachers, instructional approaches that encourage students to become majors, and the PhysTEC program and its goals.
  • In 2010-11, TIR Marty Alderman held ~15 "Talking Teaching" chats with individual undergraduate and graduate students, where science education (primarily physics), features and benefits of a teaching career, and various routes into a teaching profession were discussed.
  • In 2008, the TIR revised the Physics Department's course catalog entry and its website to encourage students with broader interests to consider the physics major. The PI reviewed and promoted these efforts. Building on these efforts, in Fall 2009 our new Director of Undergraduate Studies and our new DUS assistant developed a beautiful series of posters and a comprehensive brochure to recruit more students into the major.
  • Each year we give our comprehensive STEM Careers Interest Survey to all students enrolled in introductory physics, to gauge their interest in and attitudes toward careers in high school teaching and to encourage them to think seriously about such careers.
  • We have advertised high school physics teaching and Cornell's MAT program in introductory physics courses, in emails to physics majors and physics graduate students, and at career information sessions for physics majors. These efforts have included brief in-lecture presentations by the TIR and/or PI in our introductory physics courses, and announcements about CTE and UTA information sessions by UTAs in their recitation and lab sections.
  • TIR Marty Alderman presented "Tell Your Students … Consider Physics Teaching" at a CNY Physics Alliance meeting at Syracuse University, and included it in workshops given at the Science Teachers Association of NY State (STANYS), and the AAPT Winter Meeting.
  • TIR Jim Overhiser, as this year's president of STANYS, has spread the physics teacher recruitment and mentoring message to State Education Department personnel.