One Saturday each spring the UT Libraries holds a forum for students who are considering careers in science, technology, engineering, or math. Our Big Orange STEM Symposium gives middle school, high school, and freshmen university students a chance to meet current students and researchers in STEM fields, and to learn about unique resources available to them at UT.
Students who attend the Big Orange STEM Symposium at the John C. Hodges Library get the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities, hot topic sessions, and a STEM browse fair. At our symposium this past April, students learned about hot topics such as extracting DNA, “The Science Behind Tree Planting,” “The Nuts and Bolts of Engineering,” and “ORNL: The Coolest Place to Work.” Parents attended sessions titled “Help! My Child is Going to College.”
Students and parents browsed information booths; they met and talked with faculty members from the university’s STEM departments and representatives from the Oak Ridge National Lab, Texas Instruments, Knox Makers, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Also on hand to answer questions were UT staff from Admissions, the Student Success Center, the Living and Learning Communities, the One Stop Express Student Services Center, Career Services, Volunteer Dining, the Parent’s Association — and even WUTK, the student-run radio station.
In addition to introducing students to their possible future careers, the Libraries’ symposium is an excellent recruiting tool for STEM disciplines at the university. We want exceptional students to consider UT in their college career plans, so we use the symposium to inform prospective students about UT programs that can boost their academic success. We tell them about VolsTeach, a program that allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in a math or science field concurrently with a teaching certificate, and RISER, the Research and Instructional Strategies for Engineering Retention living-and-learning community. RISER members form a support system both inside and outside the classroom by living together on the same residence hall floor and enrolling in the same demanding, first-year calculus course.
At the Libraries’ one-day symposium, students gain an introduction to STEM careers and an overview of the many support services offered by the university. We hope students and parents leave our symposium a little better prepared for the college experience — and a little more willing to ask a librarian for help.
The 2015 Big Orange STEM Symposium was organized by the Libraries’ Community Learning Services and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.