By Linda Lockhart
Ohio University-Southern, along with the University of Rio Grande and Shawnee State University, will receive funding from the Ohio Board of Regents for one of eight state STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and Foreign Language Academies.
The institutions will collaborate for the second year to offer the Southern Ohio Youth STEM and Foreign Language Academy, a summer program focused on college engineering, technology, statistics, chemistry and Spanish classes for high school students. Maximum funding for an academy is $300,000, but the final award has not yet been determined.
"By participating in this program, we are able to reach out to students and encourage their interests in the targeted fields of education and beyond," said Tim Mollett, an Ohio University-Southern Spanish instructor who taught in last year's academy. "It gives students the opportunity to experience campus life as well as college-level coursework. It is also beneficial for them to meet other students their age from different backgrounds and cultures from all corners of their home state."
The academies provide high school students an opportunity to pursue college-level credit, at no cost to the student, in fields recognized as important to Ohio's economy. Funds are awarded for the academies through a competitive two-step review process that encourages partnerships between two- and four-year colleges and universities. Last year, 10 proposals were funded, and nearly 500 students participated statewide.
David Todt, interim provost at Shawnee State, said the Southern Ohio Academy includes a three-week residential college experience and the opportunity for about 50 students to earn six to seven college credits. Students, who are selected on criteria that includes GPA and completion of prerequisites for certain courses, attend classes for one week on each of the three campuses. All students will take introduction to engineering and can choose additional classes from chemistry, Spanish, statistics or computer engineering. Faculty from the three institutions teach the classes. Students stay in residence halls at Rio Grande for one week and at Shawnee State for two weeks.
"While we knew the social aspect would be important, we didn't know how important," Todt said of last year's academy. He said the residential component aids the academy's retention rate as students established friendships and shared experiences. Of 50 students who began last year's academy, 46 completed the program.
The traditional classes are followed by an additional six weeks of online learning, with students returning for a face-to-face session midway through that period. Participants earn dual high school and college credit.
"The experience last year was very positive," Mollett said. "For me, it was my first experience with a room full of high school-age students. I think I learned as much as the students did!
"For the Southern campus, participation in this program gives us the opportunity to show students what life is like on the regional campus of a large institution," Mollett added. "It also gives us the opportunity to showcase the many degree options available on our campus as well as on the Athens campus."
Intended to attract first-generation college students and those who may not be considering study in STEM fields during college, the academy consists of established college course content that has been formatted specifically for delivery in the program's timeframe. The academy is open to high school juniors and seniors throughout Ohio who meet the selection criteria.