Discovering academic involvement outside of the classroom at SMU

60 SMU students attended the Researching the Academy event to learn more about different academic involvement opportunities around campus in Harold Simmons Hall on Sept. 13.

“It was helpful for me with no idea going into it,” SMU Freshman John Sadler said. “A lot of the professors will give you their card or email and you can easily get in touch with them again.”

Josh Beaty, the Director of Adviser Media, Education and Technology, was a part of the Academy Week Subcommittee that came up with the idea for the Research the Academy event. This was the first time they had ever done an event that was not just a major-minor resource fair.

“Let’s do a combination of research symposium and major-minor resource fair,” Beaty said.

Event organizers said that Researching the Academy was created as an event so students could talk to faculty about different majors, minors and possible research opportunities.

“We wanted students to figure out that a major is more than just a collection of requirements,” Beaty said. “There’s this body of research that they can contribute to, even as an undergrad.”

35 tables were set up on the first floor of Harold Simmons Hall for different majors, minors, centers and organizations on campus such as Health and Society, World Languages, Human Rights, Physics, Engaged Learning, the Hegi Career Center and SMU Abroad. On the second and third floors, there were four panel discussions on research in the sciences, pre-health research, research in the humanities, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Research in the Sciences panel discussion. Photo credit: Giovanna Hnath

The panels were almost a one-to-one student-to-faculty ratio. Faculty and alumni said their college experience and research was essential for getting them where they are today in their field of study.

Organizers wanted students, especially freshman, to know that there are advisers, faculty and alumni who are willing to help them figure out what they want to study and research at SMU. Entrepreneurship Professor in the Cox School of Business Simon Mak decided to volunteer at the Innovation and Entrepreneurship panel to help guide first-year students.

“I think freshman year, or first-year students, is [sic] the best time to get them to think about career alternatives and new career options,” Mak said.

Sadler attended the event and did not really know what to expect. He already had an idea of what he wanted his major to be, but he wanted the opportunity to introduce himself to professors he could potentially have in the future.

“I wanted something that could possibly get me interested in doing research,” Sadler said. “I was debating whether or not to do research and now I am more interested in it now that I have details.”

Students grabbing snacks and drinks at the event. Photo credit: Giovanna Hnath

75 students attended the last major-minor fair that the SMU Advising Center hosted so they were hoping for a bigger crowd at Researching the Academy. Contrarily, Researching the Academy drew in less students than the previous event. Organizers think not as many students attended because it was in one of the newer buildings on campus and not everyone knew where the event was.

“Maybe there’s a possibility that we would do a similar kind of thing next year,” Beaty said. “But I’m not sure if we’re gonna do a major-minor fair in the spring like we did last spring.”