Niswonger Foundation receives $8 million grant focused on STEM


Scott M. Niswonger, Chairman and Founder of the Niswonger Foundation, announced the award of an Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will focus on educational opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).  This five-year grant, with the required matching funds, will provide $8.8 million dollars to serve schools in 21 school districts, grades 6-12, in Northeast Tennessee. 

“It is gratifying to see the Niswonger Foundation, again, recognized on the ‘national stage’ for our efforts in support of rural education and providing the best quality instruction for students in our region,” Niswonger said.

Scott Niswonger

The United States Department of Education selected 28 grant recipients based on recommendations from independent peer review panelist.   The successful applications represented 17 states and the District of Columbia. The Niswonger Foundation was the only grant recipient in the state of Tennessee.  

“I am thrilled the Niswonger Foundation is receiving this grant from the Department of Education to provide STEM opportunities for students in our area,” said Rep. Phil Roe.  “Education is an investment into a child’s future, and this funding will help provide in-person and virtual STEM education to around 57,000 students in Northeast Tennessee. The Niswonger Foundation is truly one of the outstanding organizations in our community, and I have no doubt they will do great things for our community with this funding.”

The Niswonger Foundation has enlisted a stellar lineup of organizations to support this work, including some local entities. East Tennessee State University’s math, epidemiology, graphics design and computer science programs; the ETSU Research Corporation; and STEM project-based programs including STREAMWORKS are among the organizations involved.
Niswonger commented: “The list of experts who will be onboard for this work creates an unprecedented opportunity for students in this region. This can be a game-changer for our future.”  

This grant will be used to fund a program entitled: Rural Tennessee STEM LD. The Niswonger Foundation believes that designing student-centered learning ecosystems and pathways can lead to positive student outcomes, from K-12 student achievement to meaningful employment in the workforce post-high school.

Dr. Nancy Dishner

Of the approximately 57,000 students who will benefit from this program, and at least 48 percent of these students are considered high-risk/low income.  Dr. Nancy Dishner, Niswonger Foundation President and CEO commented on the strength of the Consortium of Northeast Tennessee school systems: “We are uniquely positioned to receive national attention because of our strong consortium of school systems and system leadership. We provide convincing evidence of what you can accomplish when you work in partnership.”

The team of Dr. Richard Kitzmiller, Niswonger Foundation Vice President, Law Loving, the Foundation’s Director of Workforce Readiness, Bryce Warden, State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), and Niswonger Foundation President and CEO Dr. Dishner prepared and submitted this grant, the third U.S. Department of Education grant received by the Niswonger Foundation. 

“I credit receiving this third U.S. Department of Education grant to the strong consortium of teachers and school leaders who are our partners in this work”, Dishner said. “This project will provide virtual and in-person STEM and computer science environments, allowing the opportunity for students to accelerate their learning, while broadening and supporting their interest in a career in science, technology, engineering, math or computer science.  Our students will have an opportunity for a brighter future because of this work.”


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