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MT Sampler Camp gives middle schoolers hands-on career ideas

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Blake Reynolds, at center facing camera, was among the group of middle school students who visited the television studios inside the Bragg Mass Communication Building recently as part of the MT Sampler Day Camp at MTSU. Photo courtesy MTSU News and Media

It doesn’t take long to recognize how passionate Nancy Stubblefield is about helping young people figure out what they want to do with their lives.

As we chatted recently outside the MTSU Center for Popular Music inside the Bragg Mass Communication Building, Stubblefield shared her journey of pursuing the summer camp that allowed 50 or so middle school students to visit campus this week, including the group just finishing a tour of the CPM.

The MT Sampler Day Camp is Stubblefield’s brainchild, actually birthed by the indecision of her own daughter, a rising high school junior, about what career path to take. Such uncertainty isn’t uncommon in young people, but as a parent what to do?

“I kept thinking about what I could enroll her in, as far as a camp experience, that gives her a sampling of career areas, and there wasn’t one that I could find,” she said, noting that athletic camps and more narrowly focused career camps were more abundant.

With the always helpful Dr. Judith Iriarte-Gross as her faculty sponsor, Stubblefield applied for and received a grant to help fund the camp and took a week of her own vacation to oversee the event. The 47 students attending spent the week visiting a wide variety of university departments: concrete industry, engineering technology, physics and astronomy, mass communication, nursing, aerospace, exercise science and others.

Now an adviser for the College of Mass Communication, Stubblefield also teaches a University Studies class each fall and works with students who have not chosen a major. She hopes that by exposing these middle school students to potential career paths earlier in their lives, they’ll have a better idea of their career likes and dislikes before they step foot on a college campus.

Part of MTSU’s student success initiative is to help students identify their passions as early as possible and start down an academic roadmap that will help them earn a degree in the most efficient and cost effective way. That’s increased the importance of advisers such as Stubblefield.

“I love working with undeclared students,” she said. “They don’t know what they want to do and they’re really trying to figure it out.”

MT Sampler Day Camper Blake Reynolds just finished his time at Scales Elementary and will be entering the sixth grade at Rockvale Middle School this fall. A ball of energy and full of curiosity, Reynolds couldn’t resist grabbing a spot on the anchor desk inside one of the mass communication television studios.

“I’m hoping to learn about all the different careers I might want to do when I grow up. So far the camp has been really fun,” he said.

Reynolds is leaning toward a career in engineering, “and if I can’t do that, then aerospace.” He’s specifically interested in mechatronic engineering, which MTSU recently implemented into its Department of Engineering Technology, one of the many departments students visited during the week.

“We got to ride in the moon buggy and it was really fun,” he said.

Fellow camper Amari King, who’s headed to eighth grade at Thurman Francis Arts Academy this fall, is also looking at engineering, but in the computer science field.

“It’s pretty interesting,” he said of the camp. “Earlier this year, I attended a camp at UT focused on engineering. I thought this camp would show some other areas ... I had no idea there was a concrete industry program here.”

That’s just what Stubblefield wants to hear.

“I don’t expect these kids to know at the end of the week what they want to do,” she said, “but I do hope it opens a few more areas for them to think about.”

Stubblefield hopes to hold the camp again next year, but also wants to start a similar camp for high school students.

She’ll be seeking grants and sponsors to do so.

Jimmy Hart is director of News and Media Relations at MTSU.

Tagged under  camp, career, communications, ideas, Jimmy Hart, john bragg, media, middle, MTSU, News, school, summer

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