NASHVILLE — MTSU senior Paige Stubbs plans to be an educator after graduating, and already has a heart for the young people she eventually will be teaching.
Advice Stubbs received Wednesday from state Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, during the seventh annual Posters at the Capitol event in Nashville fueled her career plans and desires even further.
Stubbs was one of 64 scheduled undergraduate student researchers from nine Tennessee universities attending Posters at the Capitol. The planned visit allowed them the chance to meet, ask questions and discuss their research with their state lawmakers.
In addition to MTSU, other Tennessee Board of Regents and University of Tennessee system schools sending scholars included Austin Peay, East Tennessee State and Tennessee State universities; Tennessee Technological University; the University of Memphis; and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Knoxville and Martin.
“She (DeBerry) said we have to motivate our students,” said Stubbs, who is from Memphis, the city the veteran legislator represents. “My goal is to motivate students to like math and science.”
Stubbs, a math major mentored by Dr. Michaele Chappell in mathematical sciences, exhibited a poster titled “African-American Students’ Participation in STEM Majors: Factoring Out Failure, Striving for Success.” STEM includes science, technology, engineering and math.
Part of Stubbs’ research interest came from being a member of the McNair Scholars and Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participants programs.
State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, spent about 30 minutes with four local students who included MTSU senior Joshua Horvath of Rockvale, Tenn.
“It gives me encouragement to see students thinking outside the classroom and outside the box,” Ketron said of the next generation of researchers.
One of eight MTSU students participating, senior Jordon Dodson of Murfreesboro said it was a “privilege to represent your university. It’s a chance to meet other students who are at the top of their classes. One day, I’ll see them in the workplace. They’ll go on to be researchers. We all have the same interests and all want to go on and be scientists.”
In addition to Stubbs and Dodson, other MTSU students included seniors Joseph Keasler of Murfreesboro, Adam Banach of Mt. Juliet, Tenn., Joshua Horvath of Rockvale, Tenn., Matthew S. “Matt” Harris of Quincy, Ill., Jacob Basham of Portland, Tenn., and Kevin McDaniel of Murfreesboro.
Dr. Andrienne Friedli, chemistry professor and director of the Undergraduate Research Center, called it “an honor to be selected” to participate in Posters at the Capitol, but also a challenge.
“They usually present at trade conferences,” Friedli said. “Here, they were talking to lay people. They were bringing their research to a level others understand. They have an audience of politicians who care about the impact on the taxpayer. All of the students get to see how the legislature works, what the politicians do on a daily basis and see democracy in action.”
Tennessee STEM Education Center Director Tom Cheatham said an unexpected turn of events occurred when state Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, “invited the whole group into the House chambers and practiced being a representative. She (Gilmore) proposed a bill and they all got to vote. It was not something planned, but it was a great idea on her part.”
John Hood, former state representative and now MTSU director of community engagement, commended the students in their research efforts.