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USM to Present Prestigious Bennett Symposium on March 28

Thu, 03/09/2023 - 01:31pm | By: Van Arnold

The biannual T.W. Bennett Symposium, set for March 28 on The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Hattiesburg campus, will feature nearly 20 speakers discussing STEM education research and outreach. The symposium will be held from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Shelby Thames Polymer Science Building.

The interdisciplinary event features an interactive day of learning and discussion about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education research. The symposium salutes the legacy of Thomas Waring Bennett and his parents who started something special at Southern Miss.

Dr. Julie Cwikla, Director of the Center for STEM Education at USM, selected as the 2023 T.W. Bennett Distinguished Professor is the host for the March 28 event titled, “The Future of STEM Education.” She will be joined by emcee Maranda Joiner.

“The Bennett family provided a beautiful gift to the institution in memory of their son,” said Cwikla. “Funds support a Distinguished Professor in the sciences every two years for their research efforts. This year’s symposium promises to be a day of learning, networking, and collaborating as we explore what’s next in STEM teaching and learning.”

Speakers will share their work in a TED-talk style format. Among the featured guests are Dr. Jacob Grohs, Assistant Professor of Engineering Education and an NSF CAREER awardee from Virginia Tech University, Dr. John Shelley-Tremblay, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of South Alabama, who also serves as the Executive Director of the Alabama Academy of Science, and LTC (ret.) Robert F. Barrow, Director of Army Instruction in the Mobile County Public School System.  In addition, USM’s Dr. Tristen Clemons (School of Polymers), Dr. Rachel Gisewhite (Center for STEM Education), Dr. Sarah Lee (School of Computing and Computer Engineering), Dr. Kristina Mojica (School of Ocean Science and Ocean Engineering), and Dr. Maria Wallace (Center for STEM Education) will share their work in STEM education and outreach, among others.

Presentations will include:

  • Panel sessions
  • Demonstrations from GenSea, NEXUS, STEMM and STEMonDemand
  • Fireside chat with two NSF CAREER awardees
  • Lightning rounds
  • Grant idea explorations

Cwikla explains that her work and that in the Center for STEM Education explore the complex relationships surrounding teaching and learning STEM content for all ages.

“We are also always seeking new ways to support students studying STEM degrees, as well as diversifying the STEM workforce,” she said. “We want to encourage families and people of all ages to learn and explore science and math in casual settings: in the park, at the zoo, or in a museum. This symposium seeks to highlight the wide variety of work we’re doing at the Center; the ways we collaborate with others, while encouraging conversations and connections across the University and our community.”

The symposium is made possible through the T.W. Bennett Endowment, established at USM by Mr. and Mrs. T.W. Bennett Sr., in honor of their son, Thomas Waring Bennett Jr., and his love for the sciences. He was declared missing in action on Dec. 22, 1972, while serving in the United States Air Force.

K12 teachers can earn 0.5 CEUs by attending the symposium. For more information, or the register, visit: