Marymount University, a comprehensive Catholic university, has an enrollment of around 3,400 (2015) and ranks first for ethnic diversity among regional universities in the South (2016 edition of “Best Colleges” published by U.S. News & World Report.)
About 43% of its students are taking a STEM major or minor; undergraduate majors include biology, biochemistry, information technology, mathematics, health sciences and nursing; minors include mathematics, biology, physical sciences, and information technology. All undergraduate students take mathematics, science, and other liberal arts core courses to enhance communication, problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork and other important life skills. Marymount also offers master’s degrees in information technology and cybersecurity.
Research is a hallmark of a Marymount education. The innovative Discover Research program recognizes that research with a faculty mentor is important in undergraduate education and makes funds available for summer research. The annual Student Research Conference allows students to present their work. Currently, students have opportunities to work with faculty to explore areas like neuron pathway development, turtle physiology and growth, atmospheric reactions, star and planet formation, ontology for large scientific databases, cybersecurity, and mobile apps. Additionally, opportunities exist in multi-disciplinary research, for example, biology majors can join with mathematics faculty and students to study the modeling of disease spread.
Marymount students live and study next door to one of the world’s great cities – Washington, D.C. They get to see politics in action and history in the making. They also gain valuable experience and professional connections with some of the most significant science and technology organizations in the world – NASA, NIH, NSF, NSA, and more. Marymount blends theory with hands-on learning. To help prepare students for a STEM career, all undergraduates complete an internship, clinical experience, or a research project.
Marymount encourages students to participate in global experiences, either a semester abroad or a course that includes a global experience of up to three weeks. Students have recently travelled to the Middle East, Canada, and the Baltic states to study technology. Each year, biology students take an intensive three-week program with hands-on experience in reef, estuarine, mangrove, freshwater, and replanted jungle ecosystems in Belize.
Over 90% of freshmen receive financial aid: the University offering scholarships based on academic accomplishment, volunteer service, and financial need. Of particular note are the Clare Booth Luce scholarship for women pursuing studies in mathematics or science and the CyberCorpsSFS scholarship for students wishing to pursue cybersecurity through government service.
Innovative Employer-Driven Pathways
Based on published reports, STEM-related businesses are looking for highly qualified graduates who can excel in the new economy with its emphasis on critical thinking, data-driven decision-making, collaboration and communication, and global and diverse environments. It is not just a matter of teaching science, technology, engineering, or mathematics subjects. Today’s students are expected to hit the ground running when they enter the workplace, applying their knowledge and skills to lead us to a better world. Our job in higher education is to prepare them for this new economy.
At Marymount, we engage undergraduate students in critical thinking from when they begin their programs, either as freshmen or transfer students, though the Discover program. Incoming students take a first-semester course that introduces them to inquiry learning, the scientific research process, and critical thinking. Motivated students can then go on and work closely with a faculty mentor engaging in further research activities. The Discover program promotes the application of knowledge to solve a specific research question, much as students are expected to solve problems in the STEM workplace.
Data is everywhere and the use of that data is a key element of the STEM workplace of today and tomorrow whether for personalized medicine, understanding the impact of climate change, predicting criminal behavior, optimizing business performance, or a myriad of other important activities. Data-driven decision-making requires students to be technologically literate about the effective collection and management of data and to understand the application of mathematical and statistical techniques to enable good conclusions to be derived from that data. All STEM students at Marymount take mathematics and technology courses to provide the foundational knowledge and are then encouraged to apply that knowledge in various faculty-led research projects on campus including developing the semantic web to make it easier for computers to search and discover scientific data or developing epidemiological models to detect ways to slow the growth of cholera.
Oral and written communication skills are the most common deficiency noted by businesses in the hiring process. The skills are highly important in today’s highly collaborative STEM careers. Graduating Marymount students are required to take two composition courses in their freshman year, as well as three writing-intensive courses in their discipline throughout the program. In addition, oral communication is emphasized by class presentations and other activities such as the annual Student Research Conference.
In the context of rapid globalization, today’s STEM employers are increasingly looking for college graduates who possess knowledge of the world around them and can adapt successfully to culturally diverse work environments. Marymount is a very diverse campus with many events designed to encourage multicultural interactions Also connecting individuals with a wide variety of study abroad opportunities all over the world, Marymount’s Center for Global Education (CGE) assists students in becoming the culturally competent, globally minded citizens that our world and their professional futures demand. The program offers short-term, semester, and summer program options, offering students diverse opportunities to study, intern, student teach, and volunteer in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Central and South America.
One final component of the Marymount undergraduate experience is the required work experience, either an internship, clinical experience, or major research initiative for students planning on going to graduate school.
Marymount’s Center for Career Services provides comprehensive career exploration, preparation, and decision-making assistance to Marymount students to foster their professional development and ensure their long-term career satisfaction and success. The Center, as well as faculty members, are constantly in touch with businesses (including government agencies, private businesses, and not-for-profits) looking for STEM opportunities where our students can obtain real-world work experiences. The university hosts a job board where businesses can advertise internships and jobs directly to our students as well as a number of career events. Student and business satisfaction with the internship experience is constantly monitored and feedback from both constituencies is used to improve both our program content through our formal outcomes assessment process.
However, it is not just a matter of developing an effective STEM workforce, we must also expand that workforce, more students in general, more gender equity, and more diversity. Marymount faculty actively participate in many local events aimed at promoting STEM careers to middle and high school students, as presenters, workshop facilitators and mentors. In addition, we host several events on campus. We run free summer camps for mobile app development and cybersecurity, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Girls and underrepresented minorities are actively encouraged to join these programs. We also work with local not-for-profits, such as Our Kidz First, to host career days for middle school students, with an emphasis on attracting underrepresented minorities to consider a STEM career.
Our success can be measured by the growth of our STEM programs, with nearly 50% of students now engaged in a STEM discipline and 100% of students being exposed to science and mathematics at the college level. Job placement is high.
Key STEM Programs
In today’s connected world, cybersecurity has become one of the fastest growing STEM careers. There are many unfilled, highly paid positions available for cybersecurity professionals from cyber techs working in security operations center to highly qualified experts in cyber-intelligence. As a new field, it is a necessity to do outreach to middle and high schools to get these digital natives excited about the cybersecurity field. It is imperative that we meet the demand for cybersecurity professionals to secure our networks and our data so that other STEM professionals can advance their fields.
Marymount University has offered free summer camps to middle and high school for the past two years, sponsored by grants from the National Science Foundation. Last year, the camps (one residential and one a day-camp) were organized under the nation-wide National Security Agency’s Gencyber program. The summer camps are great opportunities for the students to learn and practice cybersecurity skills, to see cybersecurity as a good career, and to take that knowledge back to their school systems to promote activities at their local schools.
Our undergraduate program in information technology is now the second largest program at the university and is the fastest growing, the majority of students specializing in networking and cybersecurity. About 50% of these students are transfers from community colleges and Marymount has worked extensively with these local community colleges to encourage these students to complete a four-year degree in cybersecurity. Marymount students are exposed to the cybersecurity business community through a series of internships and work experiences, a formal mentorship program through an industry professional society, a strong speakers program, and exposure to our graduate cybersecurity students, many of whom are practitioners in the field through joint events.
STEM disciplines intersect, both technology and mathematics today are a major component of work in scientific and engineering disciplines. Mathematical biology is a relatively new discipline at the intersection of quantitative and life sciences.
For the past few years, Marymount has run a campus research group that includes Marymount students in epidemiological modeling, a component of mathematical biology. The university has been able to financially support student research with funding from the Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research, the National Science Foundation, and Marymount’s own DISCOVER program. Students are presenting at multiple undergraduate research conferences locally and nationally, and study more globally with a larger research group in mathematics and science here at Marymount.
Other research projects in the field of mathematical biology relates to common matters such as weight change, exercise, and diabetes. The research investigates the dynamics and regulation of human metabolism using an array of mathematical techniques. Students are actively encouraged to participate in these exciting research initiatives, developing highly significant skills.
Preparing K-12 STEM Educators
To grow the number of students studying to enter the STEM field, it is also very important that there is an adequate supply of teachers to teach STEM subjects from K through 12.
Marymount’s Education Department is very active in this area, both preparing its students to teach STEM subjects and providing outreach to STEM educational initiatives in the local school systems. Marymount offers undergraduate teaching licensure for elementary (grades prekindergarten-6) and secondary (grades 6-12) levels
To become a teacher, the Commonwealth of Virginia expects you to become an expert in the subject matter you will be teaching. Therefore, undergraduate students need to choose a major for the discipline or population they would like to teach, then supplement that coursework with classes to earn teaching licensure. Marymount offers undergraduate students in biology and mathematics the opportunity to earn their teaching licensure as part of their four-year undergraduate degree so promoting the secondary education profession in these areas. Marymount, also offers master’s level education programs recognizing that many STEM professionals turn to teaching a little later in their careers.
Marymount also promotes STEM education at the elementary level. A professor of education and her Marymount students have had a partnership with Fort Belvoir Elementary School for five years. As part of that relationship, MU students shadow Fort Belvoir teachers and conduct hands-on, after-school activities such as having their charges design and construct pop rockets using film canisters and alka seltzer or draw the cell structures of leaves. They have even talked via amateur radio with an astronaut on the International Space Station. This semester, fifth and sixth grade Fort Belvoir students are bused to Marymount, where faculty members invite them into their classroom or conduct mini-lessons for the girls.
Marymount University is a welcoming environment for any student looking at a STEM career with its small class sizes, global perspective, and closeness to one of the best science and technology centers in the U.S. – Washington DC
STEM Frontiers (July 2016)
Get an up-close insider’s look at what it takes to succeed in the intricately interwoven STEM fields and some unique hands-on experiences to test your newly developed skills.
- Work in a problem solving team to design and print your own 3D creation
- Untangle the mysteries of the Genetic Code by spooling your own DNA
- Literally submerge yourself into a turtle field site, capture turtles, and bring them into a lab where they will lay eggs right before your eyes
- Explore the Portable Planetarium to interact with the galaxy - no space suit required
- Use Nuclear Magnetic Resonance to characterize organic molecules
- Design custom features for an electric car built for special needs children
- Perform dissections: Explore the systems and anatomy of land and water creatures, including the squid, the shark, and the pig
The link to apply is http://www.marymount.edu/Admissions/Summer