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Last year, all 12 colleges at Auburn University participated in a special research project, led by an unusual principal investigator, a sixth-grader in Corning, California. His project ? To get as much information about Auburn as possible.
The Auburn Department of Art and Art History received a handwritten letter from the Maywood/Da Vinci Academy of Arts and Sciences student in the fall of 2021 requesting information so she could complete the research project for the school.
“I am interested in receiving information about your department at Auburn University. I would like to know about admission requirements, financial aid, student life at Auburn University and anything else you might send me,” the letter read. “If I receive more information about your university than any other student writing to other universities, we will decorate our classroom in your school colors and with the mascot Aubie the Tiger. Thank you for your time. Go Aubie the Tiger!!”
Charmed by the letter and by the student’s interest in Auburn, Nita Robertson, administrative associate of art and art history and 2021 staff employee of the Liberal Arts College, has shared the project with all the colleges on campus. And each college responded by sending boxes of shirts, scarves, buttons, brochures and other promotional items to be shipped to California.
“I had a very positive response from each college. Whether we won or not, the goal was to share Auburn with her,” Robertson said. “Being from California and coming from a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) school, she contacted a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) school, so I wanted to show her what Auburn has to offer and what we are like down here.
Martin Jimenez, a Maywood/Da Vinci Academy of Arts and Sciences professor who entrusted the project for 14 years, said Auburn’s response was the most overwhelming he had ever seen. Beyond the 80 books of information and gifts sent to the school, he said Auburn’s enthusiasm captured the heart of the project.
“Auburn University responded in such a tremendous way,” Jimenez said. “These kids were so excited because they know someone is out there in the world motivated and excited to give them the opportunity to learn more about their school and get them excited about education. “
Each semester, Jimenez assigns the research project to his students so they can engage with universities and colleges across the country. Corning, California is a small town that does not host a college, so the goal of the project is to educate students on the value of higher education and expose them to the various opportunities they have outside of the community.
For Jimenez, who was a first-generation college student himself, the project is important because it prepares middle school students for future success.
“I want to help as much as I can, as soon as I can, to guide these kids so they know there are opportunities out there for them,” Jimenez said. “A lot of the courses they take in college affect the courses they can take at the high school level, which will have a direct effect on the credits or necessary courses they need to apply to universities. When you let them know that what they are doing now has a possible impact on their future, it starts to open their eyes.
To celebrate Auburn’s winning response, students in Jimenez’s class created a mural of the Auburn logo that hangs in the classroom, bringing full interaction back to the arts where it began at the Dept. of art and art history.
“We were delighted that a student from a STEM school contacted the Art and Art History department. She understood that the acronym really should be STEAM, with embedded art as a crucial element “, said Joyce de Vries, department head. “When we received this letter, we immediately thought it was a wonderful opportunity to collaborate across campus to show this student and his sixth-grade classmates from rural California what Auburn University is all about: the generous and enthusiastic advancement of knowledge.”