COSAM News Articles 2023 September Making a difference through developing a lifelong passion in students

Making a difference through developing a lifelong passion in students

Published: 09/12/2023

By: Maria Gebhardt

Video by: Steven Dixon

Mary Lou Ewald, director of the Office of Outreach in the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM), is the recipient of Auburn University’s first Dr. Royrickers Cook Endowed Engagement Award.

“Just do one good thing. Just do one good thing every day and you can make a difference,” said Ewald.

And she has been making an immeasurable difference for K-12 students for 25 years.

“Mary Lou’s dedication and passion for outreach shows that Mary Lou has an exceptional track record of service to Auburn and our surrounding communities.”, said Edward Thomas Jr., dean of COSAM. “Her passion to help students from all areas of the state of Alabama has transformed our college-level outreach efforts into program that has a regional and national impact while providing opportunities for students to pursue bold and exciting careers in STEM fields.”

That difference is not only felt in the local Auburn/Opelika community, but throughout the state and even around the entire nation.

“I remember my first opportunity working for Science in Motion,” said Ewald. “Students would be so excited to be able to participate in hands-on science experiments, and you could see their excitement when I arrived.”

Ewald’s passion to increase the new generation of STEM leaders has sparked students in emerging technologies.

“Outreach helps students develop a lifelong love for STEM that these young learners may not have easy access to in their own classrooms,” added Ewald. “The programs provide an opportunity for them to learn how to code and design robots, use 3D printers, fly drones, and many more skills that they will use in their education and careers.”

During her time as director, Ewald has created numerous programs in the STEM Outreach Center including the Alabama Science and Engineering Fair, Auburn Mathematical Puzzle Challenge (AMP’d), Destination STEM, EmpowHER Conference, GEARSEF, Getting Under the Surface (GUTS), Mathematical Puzzle Program (MaPP), Science Matters, State Science Olympiads, Summer Science Institute and more.

Auburn University has inspired thousands of students to participate in robotics teams throughout the state and has hosted the BEST Robotics competition for two decades. The team also offers professional development training for teachers throughout the year.

Ewald was selected to be a member of the new state’s STEM Council in 2020.

“Twenty-five years of STEM outreach at Auburn University has meant so much to me because I had so many opportunities—not only to make great relationships with partners with people around the state and around the country, but opportunities to introduce young students to something that might become their passion one day. I have seen so many students flourish in finding their bliss, finding their passion. And, that’s what it is all about,” she explained.

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