Accepted SMC students to attend STEM Preview Weekend
Genevieve Coleman | Friday, February 14, 2020
On Saturday, accepted first year students will come to Saint Mary’s to attend the third annual science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) weekend.
In an email, assistant director of admissions Bekah Stanton described the event as one designed for incoming Belles interested in the sciences.
“STEM Preview Weekend is an exclusive event for students admitted to the Class of 2024 who have an interest in science, technology, engineering, and / or math,” she said.
Students will participate in a variety of activities led by student hosts and STEM faculty members.
“During this overnight event, admitted students stay in the residence halls with current Saint Mary’s students, engage in hands-on activities giving them a taste of the academic disciplines and meet faculty from each department,” Stanton said. “It’s a great opportunity to get questions answered as students are making their final college decisions.”
Chemistry professor and chair of the chemistry and physics department Dr. Christopher Dunlap said the science and math departments wanted to improve the recruitment process of STEM students.
“The admissions does a great job trying to do recruitment. But in some ways, STEM students might be looking for something a little bit different when they are looking at colleges,” Dunlap said. “What we wanted to do was give them the opportunity to experience what it was like to be in the Science Hall.”
Dunlap said the preview weekend is not unique to the College.
“This is not necessarily a completely original idea. One of my colleagues, their child had experienced something like this at another institution, but it was just a single department,” Dunlap said. “We thought … we have this great organization, this great cooperation between all the STEM fields. And we thought we could do this.”
The STEM departments purposefully planned the weekend to align with Presidents’ Day so students can stay on campus for a longer period of time.
“It turns out that the best weekend was right before Presidents’ Day because so many of them are already coming. We said, ‘All right, we’ll do it Saturday afternoon into Sunday, and then those students that want to stay for the Senior Preview Day on Monday, they could just stay all the way through,’” Dunlap said.
The activities include a welcome dinner Saturday followed by a STEM social and Trivia Night. On Sunday, the students will be able to participate in the planned STEM activities.
“Sunday is sort of the meat and potatoes of the weekend,” Dunlap said. “There are two sessions where [the students] will get the opportunity to be in the laboratory or in doing other activities relatively related to STEM. We have a biology session; we have a chemistry session. Math and physics are combined this year, and we have an engineering session.”
Dunlap sees many benefits to students who come to the event wanting to learn more about Saint Mary’s STEM offerings.
“The cool thing about it is that they will get to see all the stuff that we do, maybe not at the same level as they’ll get when they get here,” he said. “But they’ll see the building, they’ll get to meet with students [and] they’ll get to talk with faculty in a variety of settings.”
Dunlap said many of the students who attend the program will enter into STEM majors at the College. Those who do will have a bond with each other before the school year begins.
“We have like an 80% conversion rate, so basically 80 to 90% of the students who come to this matriculate at the College the next year,” he said. “A somewhat unintended effect, but a great effect, is that the students who come to this have already sort of formed a community before they even come to College.”
Students enjoy the weekend’s programming every year, Dunlap said. He hopes the STEM departments can continue to motivate students to major in STEM.
“Our surveys that we give at the end have very often said that this is one of the reasons that they chose to come to Saint Mary’s,” he said. “I would say it’s a highly successful program in many ways, and we hope to be able to continue in the future.”