We recently announced our participation in an amazing program — the Illinois SMASH Academy. I am personally excited about this program because it reflects so many of our core values as an institution and as a community.
The academy brings high school students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to a five-week summer camp each year for three years. The camp will introduce them to the endless career possibilities in science, technology, engineering and math, commonly referred to as STEM.
SMASH is an ideal program for SIU to get involved in because it focuses on our mission to foster diversity and inclusion while allowing young adults to experience the many resources available at a top-tier research institution.
Supporting STEM education
This new initiative expands SIU’s commitment to supporting STEM education, not just at the university level, but in our K-12 schools as well. Here are a few examples:
- The STEM Education Resource Center helps to develop research-based methods to improve STEM education and increase literacy in STEM subjects. Graduate and undergraduate students working at the center gain valuable experience in STEM education and research.
- The National Science Foundation is providing $4.5 million for the Robert Noyce Master Teacher Fellowship program at SIU to help improve STEM courses for students in Southern Illinois.
- The Department of Mathematics hosts Math Field Day each year, bringing more than 700 high school students to campus. They compete for prizes and scholarships by taking a two-hour mathematics exam, covering topics including algebra, geometry, trigonometry and more.
- Every year, SIU participates in the Junior Academy of Science Region 8 Science Fair. Hundreds of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students volunteer as judges, add scores, help with the logistics and more to ensure a fun event for all participants. This year, we will host the IJAS State Science Exposition, as well.
- The College of Science has hosted “Science in the South” for more than 20 years. The conference invites K-12 teachers for workshops that build teaching skills, expand content knowledge, and gives participants an opportunity to network with their peers.
Our students get involved with meaningful research and creative activities starting in their freshman year, but programs like these expand our commitment to hands-on learning to high school students throughout the state and beyond. It’s another example of why I am proud to be a Saluki.