Two ECE Alumnae Tapped for Woodrow Wilson Georgia Teaching Fellows Program

State of Georgia Continues Efforts to Provide Excellent
 STEM Teachers for High-Need Schools

Atlanta, GA

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, celebrated the State of Georgia’s ongoing commitment to close the achievement gap and provide all students with high quality teachers, as the second class of Woodrow Wilson Georgia Teaching Fellows was named on June 1, 2016.

Sixty individuals – including five Georgia Tech alumni, two who are alumnae of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) – will be part of the second cohort of the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program in the state, which will be offered at Columbus State University, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, Mercer University, and Piedmont College during the 2016–17 academic year. The highly competitive program recruits both recent graduates and career changers with strong backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and math—the STEM fields—and prepares them specifically to teach in high-need secondary schools.

“The Woodrow Wilson Fellowship is about putting well-trained, committed educators in not only the fields of highest demand in our technology-driven age, but in the schools of highest need here in Georgia,” said Deal. “STEM education plays a critical role in our state’s competitiveness and future economic prosperity and the most important thing we can do for our students in this field is ensure they have effective teachers. This opportunity for teachers is leading to a brighter future for students as they prepare for the 21st century workforce.”

The two ECE alumnae who will participate in this program are Wanda Harding and Deidre Paris.

Harding, who earned her master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1993, will attend Piedmont College for her teacher training. She has served as technical director for the NOAA Joint Polar Satellite System and is a former senior mission manager for the NASA Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Station, including the 2011 launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover. She has also worked as a systems engineer for the International Space Station Program with the Italian Space Agency.

Paris, who holds three graduate degrees from Georgia Tech, will attend Columbus State University for her teacher training. She earned an M.S. in computer engineering and power system planning in 1994, an M.S. in environmental and urban policy in 1996, and a Ph.D. in construction engineering management in 2002. She has worked as a college professor, teaching engineering and mathematics, and she has been an artificial intelligence researcher. She has collaborated with NASA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Lawrence Livermore National Labs, and the Army Environmental Policy Institute.

The three additional Georgia Tech alumni participating in the program are Sara Turmel, a 2016 bachelor’s in materials science and engineering graduate who will attend Georgia State University; Michael Fusia, a 2006 bachelor’s in physics graduate who will attend Kennesaw State University; and Jill Furstenau, a 1982 industrial engineering major who will attend Piedmont College.

The Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship focuses on preparing top-quality educators for many of Georgia’s most underserved public schools.  Each Fellow receives $30,000 to complete a specially designed, cutting-edge master’s degree program based on a yearlong classroom experience. In return, Fellows commit to teach for three years in the urban and rural Georgia schools that most need strong STEM teachers. Throughout the three-year commitment, Fellows receive ongoing support and mentoring.

“Under Governor Deal’s leadership, Georgia has demonstrated a strong commitment to identifying, recruiting, and preparing top candidates for STEM teaching careers throughout the state,” Levine said. “Across the nation, we hear of struggles to get exemplary teachers, particularly those who teach subjects like science and math, to serve in high-need schools. Through the hard work of the governor, the legislature, partner universities, and local school districts, we are working together to ensure Georgia’s urban and rural communities have the strong teachers our children need to learn and succeed in the 21st century. Together, we are committed to meeting the staffing needs of Georgia’s high-need schools.”

Through the Teaching Fellowship program, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation will contribute to the University System of Georgia’s initiative to produce 20,000 new teachers by 2020. Woodrow Wilson is administering the program, with in-state coordination by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education and support from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. Current project funding is $9.36 million.

The university partners, selected in a statewide review by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, have spent the past year and a half tailoring their teacher preparation programs to meet the Fellowship’s standards for intensive clinical work and rigorous related coursework. All five participating universities received $400,000 matching grants to develop their teacher preparation programs based on standards set by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. For each of the program’s three years, the participating Georgia colleges and universities will be able to enroll 12 Fellows, totaling 180 Fellows over that three-year period.

The Woodrow Wilson Foundation is also partnering with a wide range of school districts across the state on this effort, including Atlanta Public Schools, Banks County School System, Bibb County School District, Chattahoochee County School District, Athens-Clarke County School District, Cobb County School District, Dodge County Schools, Franklin County Schools, Fulton County Schools, Gwinnett County Public Schools, Habersham County Schools, Hall County Schools, Houston County Schools, Marietta City Schools, Marion County School System, Monroe County Schools, Muscogee County Schools, Paulding County School District, Stephens County School System, Union County Schools, Walton County Public Schools, and White County School District.

“The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education is proud to serve as the in-state coordinating agency for this program that is delivering real, genuine results after only two short years,” said GPEE President Steve Dolinger. “Throughout the Georgia Partnership’s 24+ year history, we have consistently supported strategies to improve teacher effectiveness.” He added, “The Woodrow Wilson Georgia Teaching Fellowship program is both enhancing the teacher training programs at five universities and producing highly qualified STEM teachers for the partnering school systems. This is a winning program for Georgia.”

Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio are currently Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship states. The Georgia program brings the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s total commitment to the Fellowship to more than $90 million nationally. More information on the national program can be found at

Patrick Riccards is the contact and source for this press release originally issued by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Program. For more information about the program, contact Riccards at 703-298-8283, 

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Deidre Paris

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Last revised November 13, 2017