STEM Discover event draws self-proclaimed 'nerds'

Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau 

How do you know when you’re in the company of science, technology, engineering and math students at a Grand Canyon University panel event?

You might have a clue when one student proclaims “Yoda” as her role model, or it might be apparent when another names the late Steve Jobs of Apple fame. But the biggest giveaway is probably that more than a handful consider the word “nerd” a compliment.

For example, GCU sophomore Paul Rodriguez, president of the Innovative Computing Club, drew a laugh from dozens of high school students who were on campus last weekend when he said he constantly thinks about his club and invited everyone to join it.

“Every minute I live and breathe is how to improve it. … I’ve met most of my friends through it,” Rodriguez said. “It’s like a small dysfunctional family.”

Rodriguez and other GCU student panelists fielded questions Saturday afternoon from high school juniors and seniors during an invitation-only VIP Discover event. Nearly 135 students interested in pursuing STEM degrees were treated to two nights on campus and an introduction to GCU’s growing STEM curriculum and related clubs and activities.

Professors from the College of Science, Engineering and Technology discussed mechanical, electrical, engineering, computer science, IT and other programs offered by the University. Students from various sports, engineering and computing clubs led breakout sessions about their activities.

“The event went great!” said Tara Scibona, marketing event planner. “We had students up until 3 a.m. finishing out the League of Legends tournament.  They are definitely a dedicated crowd.”

Most were brimming with energy at the panel event the next afternoon, loudly calling “Go Lopes” and raising their hands in the “Lopes Up” sign.

Some, like Shekinah Ahina, from Waianae, Hawaii, came a long way to make sure GCU was the right place. Ahina, who traveled six hours by plane, said “actually almost 100 percent” certain that she will attend the University.

“Their faith base is really awesome, Ahina said. “And you get to learn here, but in a fun way.”

Daniel Conrad, from Spokane, Washington, was awarded a free meal plan for his first semester of freshman year because he stood out as a leader.

“Everyone has been really nice,” Conrad said, who is torn between studying mechanical engineering at GCU and training to become a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

“That’s a really important thing I feel I’ve been called to do,” he said.

In answer to what he likes best about GCU, student panelist Michael Ryan said that many professors don’t teach from a text book, but come from industry and teach from experience.

For Mary Mkrtchyan, a GCU biomedical engineering student, the best thing is the Learning Lounge, the University's tutoring center.

“The Learning Lounge students are one of us, and the professors are truly amazing people,” she said.

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