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mathematics

TU recruits tackle STEM Bootcamp before classes start

The first semester of college is an exciting time for students, but living in a different environment, adapting to university academics and making friends can cause anxiety. That’s why The University of Tulsa is introducing a STEM Bootcamp to prepare incoming students for this new and challenging phase in their lives.

Thirty-three participants will begin the TU program Aug. 5 and spend two weeks working on activities involving math, chemistry and academic skill development while completing self-paced math skill sessions and exploring science and engineering career opportunities. Students also will take field trips to facilities such as Fab Lab Tulsa to complete projects that reinforce concepts discussed in the classroom.

Improving the student experience

“The bootcamp is designed to help students feel confident in their abilities and know where to turn if something doesn’t go as planned,” said program coordinator Sheila Givens. “Our goal is to make sure that participants transition into their studies at TU with motivation and preparation and possess tools that can help them succeed to the point of graduation.” 

STEM BootcampGivens said students should expect an intense two weeks of college prep, but she also recognizes that learning occurs off campus. Some of the additional science and engineering excursions planned around Tulsa include stops at ONEOK Field and The Gathering Place.

The College of Engineering and Natural Sciences is sponsoring the program and will pick up the tab for participants’ first-semester math and chemistry books — a $400 value.

TU studied other university summer programs to identify best practices before developing its custom model. “We looked at a lot of schools close to us in the state or similar in size. We chose a program with carryover into the semester because that’s when it becomes real to students — four weeks in, they’ve got their first mid-term,” said Amy Schachle, senior math instructor and lead faculty for the bootcamp.

The summer session and six follow-up meetings are an incentive for students because those who complete the program will earn class credit. Once the semester begins, Schachle said the STEM Bootcamp participants will be required to check in regularly with her and Gabriel LeBlanc, Wellspring Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, to evaluate how they are adapting to their classes and college life. Providing extra resources, boosting skills and starting the college transition process early are all priorities to improve the student experience, which program organizers hope will result in higher retention and graduation rates.

Math + chemistry = STEM foundation

LeBlanc said his role as a faculty adviser involves teaching students how to apply chemistry principles differently than they did in high school. Presenting these basic concepts before the semester begins could prevent some students from leaving the major.

“During a traditional chemistry course, there’s so much content to cover so quickly that we don’t get to spend very much time discussing how to set up problems to solve them,” LeBlanc explained. “Students who don’t understand that baseline information within the first week or two of the semester are destined to do poorly in class. If we can master some of this material on the front end, then chemistry won’t become a deterrent to their career path.”

Although math and chemistry are the two main topics that Schachle and LeBlanc will teach, representatives from TU’s Center for Student Academic Success will lead sessions on study skills, identifying and applying personal learning styles, notetaking, conquering test anxiety and exam prep, goalsetting and more. “It’s important we break down some of those barriers to tutoring, studying and taking notes the right way,” LeBlanc explained.

Students with STEM plans

STEM BootcampGivens said many of the students invited to attend the bootcamp program are interested in using a STEM degree to advance health care or pursue other philanthropic projects that make a difference globally. To become a scientist or engineer, Schachle said it all begins with a strong foundation in mathematics.

“We want to make sure they’re ready to hit the ground running,” she said. “We’ve got to make sure they can do college-level math by starting that transition process a little earlier and providing extra resources.” 

Givens explained the program is designed to improve student learning, but it is also a learning opportunity for TU. Participant feedback will be used to develop future summer programming and allow TU to better understand how to serve students such as Mai VuLe of Broken Arrow, who wants to one day serve in the medical field.

“I hope to make all types of friends, know the campus better, enjoy dorm life and become more prepared for my classes in the future,” VuLe said. Studying biochemistry is the first step toward her career goal to learn about the chemical processes that occur within living organisms.

“It’s a good opportunity to start in advance on being a college student,” VuLe said. “I’ll already have an idea of what classes are like, and I’ll be able to learn how to make sure I’m ready for each class.” 

Read more about TU’s efforts to serve students and help them achieve success in college. 

Hurricane Mathfest builds confidence for girls in STEM fields

The 2019 Hurricane Mathfest was sponsored by The University of Tulsa Department of Mathematics and included two separate competitions: a girls-only team challenge for local girls in grades three through eight and a high school individual and team competition.

The competition

hurricane mathfestIn the girls-only team event, 136 girls from the following schools competed on 34 teams in two divisions: upper elementary and middle school.

  • Bristow Middle School
  • Carver Middle School
  • Cascia Hall Preparatory School
  • Cleveland Elementary School
  • Collins Elementary (Bristow)
  • Eisenhower Elementary School
  • Gilcrease Elementary School
  • Gilcrease Middle School
  • Holland Hall
  • Kendall-Whittier Elementary School
  • McLain Junior High School
  • Memorial Junior High school
  • Monroe Demonstration Academy
  • Thoreau Demonstration Academy
  • Union 6th and 7th Grade Center
  • Warner Elementary School
  • Daniel Webster Middle School
  • Westside Elementary School (Claremore)
  • Zarrow Elementary School

Helping hands

Hurricane MathfestThe TU student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) co-sponsored this year’s event. SWE members greeted participants at registration, served as proctors
for testing, delivered snacks, graded exams and organized math games during breaks.

The group also provided T-shirts for the event, but most importantly, served as TU ambassadors, promoting degree programs in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences.
TU female engineering and science students often volunteer to help raise awareness of the importance of mathematics.

Math + Confidence = Fun

Hurricane MathfestHurricane Mathfest volunteer Gloria Lee, a mechanical engineering sophomore, explained the valuable role that mathematics can have in the lives of young women. “It’s important to encourage them. If you put your mind to it, whether or not you think you’re the best, as long as you give 110%, you can work hard and apply yourself,” Lee said.

Fellow volunteer Caroline Yaeger is majoring in mathematics and economics and plans to pursue a career that educates others in math. “If you look at it the right way, the challenge of math can be fun,” she said. “The field of math, science, technology and engineering is difficult, but that’s part of the fun of it.”

Samuel Taylor receives Goldwater Scholarship

University of Tulsa junior Samuel Taylor has been selected as a 2019 Goldwater Scholar and is TU’s 64th student to receive a Goldwater Scholarship. This award honors Senator Barry Goldwater and was designed to encourage outstanding college sophomores and juniors to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of this type in these fields.

samuel taylorTaylor is majoring in computer science and mathematics. He is a National Merit Scholar, a member of the TU Honors Program and participates in the Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge. Taylor not only excels academically but lives out other aspects of the True Blue identity by giving back to the community. For more than a year, he has mentored high school students in a local Tulsa FIRST Robotics team. Taylor also helped design a bubble machine with the university organization Make a Difference Engineering (MADE at TU), which aids children with special needs.

From an estimated pool of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1,223 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 443 academic institutions to compete for the 2019 Goldwater Scholarship. Only 496 were selected. Many of this year’s Goldwater Scholars, including Taylor, have already published research and presented their work.

Taylor plans to pursue a Ph.D. degree in cognitive science with an emphasis in computer science. This will include researching computational models of biological and artificial cognition to see how these models could inform better adaptive artificial intelligence. Ultimately, he hopes to teach and research within academia.

TU’s Conner Bender awarded Truman Scholarship for public service

University of Tulsa computer science senior Conner Bender has received the honorable Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers in public service leadership. The scholarship, awarded in 2019 to 62 students from 58 institutions nationwide, is the hallmark of the Truman Foundation, the nation’s official living memorial to the 33rd U.S. President Harry S. Truman. Bender will receive a maximum of $30,000 for graduate study.

conner bender
Bender with Jim Sorem, dean of the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences

Originally from Jenks, Bender is double majoring in computer science and mathematics, while earning his master’s degree in cyber operations. He will graduate with his bachelor’s degrees in May 2019 and continue his graduate degree at TU next fall. He serves as TU’s student body president, an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees, president of Future Alumni Council, and founding president of the Rotaract Club. Bender is a Presidential Scholar, Stanford University Innovation Fellow, orientation leader, university ambassador, triathlete and marathon runner-up.

Bender used his computer science skills to establish a meal swipe donation program and was awarded the prestigious TU Medicine Wheel Award for Community Service. He is a two-time teaching assistant for the TU President Gerard Clancy and one of 10 U.S. undergraduates selected for a Fulbright Summer Institute in Scotland. Bender was named 2019 Greek Man of the Year and has held several internships and research positions with the U.S. government. He created a free iPad app that enhances word association and motor skills for people with disabilities and at Harvard, helped develop an emotion-based text reading application for Android users who are blind or visually impaired.

Bender is a local nonprofit board member, a cappella singer in Phi Mu Alpha, ministry team member for Reformed University Fellowship and was selected to lobby for the Fraternal Governmental Relations Coalition. He also serves as the Philanthropy Committee undergraduate representative, ritual peer for the Sigma Chi International Fraternity and vice president of TU’s chapter of Sigma Chi. Bender is a member of the Diversity Action Committee, Foundation of Excellence Committee, University Council and Student Conduct Board. He also is a notary public and is in the process of obtaining his private pilot license.

This year’s Truman Scholars were selected from 840 candidates nominated by 346 colleges and universities — the largest and one of the most competitive application pools in Truman Scholar history. Finalists were chosen by 16 independent selection panels based on their academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders.