Monday, February 13, 2012

Students from Sequoyah Schools visit OU College of Engineering

By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Native American high school students from Tahlequah’s boarding school, Sequoyah Schools, visited the University of Oklahoma campus yesterday as part of a special recruitment program sponsored and organized by Sooner Engineering Education Center (SEED).

In partnership with the Cherokee Nation and other Native American nations in Oklahoma, SEED and the OU College of Engineering brought 26 students and 5 teachers to campus yesterday to give these students special insight into the classwork, facilities, and overall day-to-day experience of college students pursuing engineering and science degrees.

Helping with the event were several OU students who are members of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, who acted as mentors and provided students with firsthand perspective.

“High school students usually have little to no idea what the academic side of college is like,” said SEED Center Director Dr. Mark Nanny. “Today’s tour was about taking the intimidation factor out of college and providing students with familiar faces to encourage their enrollment.”

For AISES president Lindsay Calhoun, an experience like this was a deciding factor in her decision to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, which she completed in 2004.

“I would say touring OU and meeting college students as a high school student had a big impact on my decision to come here,” Calhoun said.

Yesterday’s tour was the first of its magnitude, and was geared toward Native American students specifically becuase Native Americans have a very low representation among college students majoring in sciences - less than one percent.

The Sequoyah students who toured OU were selected by their teachers for their interest in mechanical engineering and science, and were given the opportunity to sit in on engineering classes in addition to viewing high tech research facilities like the Artificial Intelligence Lab and the Fears Structural Engineering Lab.

Yesterday’s tour was just one agenda item in the ongoing partnership of SEED and the Cherokee Nation, as teachers and faculty from OU and Sequoyah hope to collaborate on revamping the school’s science and math curriculum in the near future.

While the class auditing and tours were a helpful reference point for Sequoyah teachers, the day’s focus was on the students, with largely positive results.

“Overall I think they were very impressed and I got the impression they were very excited to be on campus,” Calhoun said, of the students’ reactions.

“(The students) seemed a little overwhelmed by the difficulty of the higher-level classes, but I think talking to the AISES mentors about their day-to-day experiences really helped take intimidation out of it,” Nanny said. “At the beginning of the day, the group was very subdued, but when I left them right before their departure, there were smiles all around.”

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