Vento Scholarship awarded to UW-River Falls graduate student

Vento Scholarship winner Laura Lusardi February 5, 2020 - A graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls is the 2019-20 recipient of the Bruce F. Vento Science Educator Scholarship. Laura Lusardi, of Hudson, is pursuing her master’s degree and licensure as a secondary school science teacher through UWRF’s STEMteach graduate program.

The $5,000 scholarship, established in 2016 to honor the memory of U.S. Representative Vento, supports students pursuing a science education degree. Before entering Congress, Vento, a UW-River Falls graduate, was a junior high school science and social studies teacher.

“Laura has a passion for promoting females in science. She actively looks for ways to get girls interested in physics, building on her own experiences as well as the current research,” said Clinical Associate Professor Rachelle Haroldson, STEMteach program master teacher and Scholarship Review Committee member.

After completion of her undergraduate physics degree in 2018, Lusardi spent time teaching science at a summer camp in California and working as a long-term and on-call substitute teacher in Minnesota. 

“I want all of my students to have positive associations with science,” Lusardi said. “I want to show students just how incredible and fascinating physics can be, even for those who might not initially love science. I want my students to understand that anyone can do science no matter their interests.”

“Being awarded the Bruce F. Vento Science Educator Scholarship allows me to dedicate my sole focus on apprentice teaching so that I may make the most of my apprentice teaching and be the most effective in the classroom in order to ultimately earn my license in physics,” she added.

All STEMteach candidates in good academic standing and enrolled in the winter term of the program are eligible for the Vento scholarship. In addition, UW-River Falls offers a forgivable loan that pays for a large portion of their tuition to qualified students in the program who are willing to teach in economically disadvantaged school districts. 

The STEMteach graduate program began in 2015 and has its fifth cohort of students. The program provides a teacher licensure pathway for candidates who majored in math or science as an undergraduate or who have work experience in any of the science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields.

After one year of classes and student teaching, students are eligible for a Wisconsin teaching license to teach science, math, or computer science in middle or high schools. The program of study includes early hands-on experience in teaching and the option to continue studies to earn a master of science in education degree.

UW-River Falls is now accepting applications for the sixth cohort of the STEMteach program which begins in June. 

For more information about STEMteach or the Vento scholarship, email or visit

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