Taking this public-first approach was a risk, but it has paid off for King.
“I’m in spaces where I can say, to organizations like the National Science Foundation and National Academy of Sciences ‘look, we need to rethink what we’re doing and figure out ways that we can fund people who are in the community already doing this work.'”
This has been the cornerstone of King’s approach to science education since her time working with advisor Rose Pringle, Ph.D., in the Science Education doctoral program.
“At one point, Dr. Pringle said, ‘Natalie, if you don’t find a way to connect your service to scholarship, you won’t make it in academia.’ It was exactly what I needed to hear: for me to be strategic about how I engage in this work and still be successful as an educational researcher,” King said.
This pointed advice from Pringle “allowed me to flourish,” King said. The research agenda King developed for her dissertation work evolved into several long-term projects centered around addressing access to STEM spaces.
Using the Noyce grant, King worked to recruit 27 STEM professionals to become middle and high school teachers in the metro Atlanta area. There, they used their baccalaureate knowledge to teach in classrooms while working on their M.A.T degrees and teaching certification.
So far, the program has not experienced attrition, which is notable given national teaching trends. Connection underlies this cohort, King’s team continues to offer signature experiences toward becoming highly effective STEM teachers and leaders serving children who deserve the best..
King is also in the midst of a five-year longitudinal study with a cohort of girls from the Atlanta area. Unique to this study is its real-time examination of identity development rather than the more common retrospective approach. By inviting the girls to come to camp at Georgia State University from 8th grade through high school graduation in the summers and year round mentorship and support, King hopes to develop a deeper understanding of how they develop STEM identities.