Louisburg College Starts Free STEM Institute

Louisburg College is planning a free summer STEM Institute for high school students interested in pursuing science and learning to do research at the college level.

Dr. Bob Bruck, assistant dean for STEM programs and distinguished professor of environmental science, is developing the month-long program to introduce high school juniors to college life, rigorous for-credit courses and individualized research experiences. The program will target students from rural areas and other demographics not well represented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Dr. Mark La Branche, Louisburg College’s president, said the goal is to reach students “who are untapped but have the potential.”

Starting in June, with the generous help of a donor, the college expects to host between 10 and 15 students from around Franklin County who have been recommended and vetted by local high schools. The institute, free to all students, will offer a four-credit environmental biology course, along with room, board and books. A national solar energy corporation is covering the costs.

Dr. Bruck, who taught environmental biology at N.C. State University for 25 years, said the course will provide a comprehensive survey of our planet and the natural and manmade threats to its sustainability. Among the study topics: terrestrial ecology; aquatic ecology; biological geography and geology; water, air and soil pollution; conventional and renewable energy systems; global human population dynamics; agricultural systems and food security; and modeling the future of Earth.

Students will have daily classroom instruction and lab hours in the morning. Afternoons will be spent with a mentor doing research, likely at the College’s De Hart Botanical Gardens. At the end of the program, all students will present their findings to their peers, professors, parents and others.

To augment the STEM classes already being taught at Louisburg College, including solar energy certification, the college is hiring new faculty, upgrading science facilities and offering STEM scholarships. The goal is to prepare Louisburg’s freshmen and sophomores to transfer to universities as STEM majors, graduate and pursue master’s studies or career placement.

Dr. Rhonda Schuhler, Franklin County associate superintendent, and Glenn Dansky, Louisburg High School principal, attended a briefing earlier this month on Louisburg College’s plans and enthusiastically supported the institute. The high school launches its STEM Academy in August, and school officials believe the two programs will increase interest in and mastery of STEM fields.

Louisburg College faculty and administrators said they expect to set the date for the course later this month and begin meeting with science teachers to identify potential students.

In photo: Dr. Bob Bruck leads a biology class through Louisburg College’s de Hart Botanical Gardens, which has six ecosystems among its 91 acres.