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STEM Institute returns to DSU for fall 2016

October 14, 2015

The Great Plains Education Foundation recently awarded Dakota State University a grant to fully fund the STEM Institute for up to 20 students for fall 2016. The program is slated to begin a week before classes start and gives incoming first-year students in STEM majors a chance to have closer interaction with faculty and upper-level students. Participants will also engage in research experiences with professors and peers throughout the semester.

DSU held a pilot STEM Institute in the summer 2014 with 16 students in the cohort. Students in a variety of majors were accepted into the program including biology, physical science, computer science, mathematics and secondary education programs in these areas. They participated in intensive collaborations with local STEM-focused institutions such as EROS Data Center and the Sanford Medical Research Center.

“STEM Institute was an invaluable experience for me. I came to DSU from Connecticut, so I didn't get to visit frequently, and I was very worried about being able to adjust to the Midwest,” said Sara Scimone, a computer science major from South Windsor, Conn. “STEM Institute gave me the opportunity to come out to campus a week before everyone else, and I got to tour two local businesses, Sanford and EROS Data Center, as well as the town and the campus before the rush of orientation. We built robots, sniffed data packets, and burnt snack foods, all for science, of course.”

The activities for the Institute continued into the fall semester and included traveling to the Nobel Conference in St. Peter, Minn. and attending an on-campus lecture by a leading National Geographic producer.

“The program provided an excellent opportunity for development of personal interactions between our STEM Institute participants, DSU faculty and upper division student mentors,” said Dr. Barbara Szczerbinska, associate professor of physics and STEM Institute coordinator. “Multiple hands-on activities and field trips allowed for very intensive student/faculty collaborations and emphasized truly interdisciplinary character of the STEM fields.”

The students not only valued the academic and collaboration aspect of the program, but the connections they made with peers and professors were positive as well.

“I also met dozens of students and professors who I still talk to now as a junior, and was able to rely on all of them for all of my freshman questions. I would not trade this experience for anything, and I am so glad more students can have this opportunity as well,” said Scimone.

With similar activities planned for the 2016 program, the STEM institute’s primary goal is to get students excited about what is possible in their field and also enlighten them on the diversity of STEM-related education and career paths.

“Students have a chance to hear directly for the experts in their fields about the importance of the STEM fields in the 21st century and get excited about prospects awaiting them upon graduation. Thanks to support from the Great Plains Education Foundation we are looking forward to 2016 STEM Institute,” said Dr. Szczerbinska.

The STEM Institute will be free for students and they will also receive a $300 stipend for completing the program. For more information on the program, please contact Barbara Szczerbinska at barbara.szczerbinska@dsu.edu.