3 Ways Ashford University is Promoting STEM Awareness

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By now, many people are aware that the acronym STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, but the popularity of these areas continues to grow. Ashford University provides several platforms for you to increase your awareness and participation in STEM-related opportunities. From special events to program offerings, the University provides a variety of ways to get involved. 

The Forbes School of Business and Technology™ at Ashford University has responded to the growing interest in these fields by offering several bachelor- and master-level technology degree programs and more programs being proposed. Additionally, other colleges within Ashford University offer science and mathematics courses that support its students in these areas of study, and they will continue to expand their STEM-related programs. Meanwhile, a National STEM Day celebration reflects the latest in community involvement. 

Here, we highlight three ways Ashford is honoring STEM programs and engaging the community in the popular subjects.

1. Celebrating National STEM Day

On November 8, Ashford University is celebrating National STEM Day to recognize academic programs and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The festivities include an online Citizen Science Scavenger Hunt, hosted by the University. As part of the challenge, participants will be asked to seek the answers to fifty questions about various citizen science programs offered online. 

In this scavenger hunt, participants will scan the web and gathering information about a vast array of citizen science projects, including what they involve and who can participate. They will then use the information to answer questions, and the answers will, in turn, provide pieces of a puzzle — a message that can only be read when every question is answered. The goal is to provide a bit of playful competition as well as a doorway into the world of scientific opportunities. 

Before participants can play along, it’s important to understand what citizen science is and what part it plays in promoting public engagement in STEM fields.

Citizen science involves everyday people participating in science – gathering real data, used in real research projects. Along the way, these volunteers (from elementary school students through retirees) get to experience the wonder of scientific investigation, learning about topics as diverse as the structure of galaxies or the calls of native frogs. Scientists, meanwhile, reap the benefit of crowdsourcing – getting lots more data and data analysis completed than would otherwise be possible for a small scientific team. 

Many citizen science projects are geared for a K-12 classroom audience, while others are geared for folks of any age. For instance, Project Budburst invites participants to make careful observations of flowering plants, which is a creative and engaging way for school students to get outdoors and learn about the natural world. Citizen science efforts can be strictly local, often in the area of environmental science, or they can be situated online so that anyone anywhere can join in the conversation. Some might require participants to get their feet wet (quite literally), while others entail categorizing satellite or photograph images and can be completed at the keyboard. These local projects often include a commitment to regular data collection – perhaps monitoring daily weather or tracking evidence of squirrel activity in a nearby park. 

For those not ready for that level of involvement, there is a host of online opportunities in dozens of fields listed online at the Zooniverse. These projects come with no strings attached. Those interested can participate for a few minutes one time or continue through the project’s completion. Once hooked by citizen science, though, it may be difficult just to walk away. A universe of opportunities to make discoveries while helping to make a difference in scientific research awaits you.  

2. Launching the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree

The Forbes School of Business & Technology launched the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree program in February of 2018. This online degree empowers technology professionals to become critical thinkers and agents of innovative process improvement, preparing students in the areas of information assurance and security, project management, data management, networking technologies, and mobile and web applications. The degree program is in academic partnership with several leading IT organizations, including the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and CompTIA. Further, the program has been designed based on competencies aligned with these organizations setting industry IT standards. 

As a result, the BS in Information Technology degree program offers CompTIA certification options as part of the courseware. CompTIA is a global organization that provides vendor-neutral IT certifications, such as the widespread A+, Network+, Cloud+ etc. One great advantage to CompTIA certifications is that unlike Amazon, Microsoft, Cisco, and VMware, they're not limited to only one specific technology. 

CompTIA helps form a strong base of knowledge and expertise that leads to increased career opportunities. The certificates can advance the careers of the candidates by demonstrating essential foundational knowledge. Many leading IT organizations such as Microsoft, Cisco, and Amazon Web Services introduce CompTIA certification material as part of their certifications. As a result, a good number of companies have made CompTIA certifications compulsory for some of their new hires. 

3. Creating an Online Community

Whether you are enrolled in the information technology degree program or not, one great way to stay informed is by joining our new technology student chapters and clubs such as the University’s Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) student chapter. ACM is the largest, globally recognized, computing technology organization and aims to offer resources that advance this technology as an occupation. The organization offers members the field's leading digital-library as well as the latest cutting-edge publications and periodicals, symposiums, and career resources.

The Forbes School of Business & Technology’s ACM student chapter has already launched and is currently being run by student officer volunteers. Check out the site, and join the chapter today. 

Also, the soon-to-launch CompTIA student chapter will be a great way to obtain information about these certifications and their benefits, in addition to receiving technology and IT career newsletters. The new CompTIA chapter is currently offering opportunities to students who wish to fill the volunteer officer positions and who are interested in helping run this chapter. Interested Ashford University students may inquire about these positions by emailing Dr. Nazila Safavi.

To learn more about how Ashford University is contributing to and promoting STEM awareness and educational opportunities, visit Ashford.edu, follow our Facebook page, or become a member of the ACM chapter or the forthcoming CompTIA student chapter. 

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Written by Clifford Blizard, Science Course Lead, Ashford University Division of General Education; Kenneth E. Edick, PhD, Associate Dean, Technology Studies, Ashford University Forbes School of Business & Technology; and Nazila Safavi, BCS, MSEE, PhD, program chair & assistant professor, Ashford University Forbes School of Business & Technology.
 

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