Spotlights

Three Questions: Mary Ward

Mary Ward is on a roll.

Ward, a student in our Education Minor, won a Best Poster award during Carolina’s Celebration of Undergraduate Research earlier this month. The poster described her Ed Minor project and was entitled “Exposing Students in Special Education to STEM Through Engineering.” More than 200 students took part in the 16th annual event that showcases undergraduate research from across the campus.

Ward, a psychology major and a rising senior from Eden, N.C., is busy with other big projects, too. This year she’s serving as chief editor of the Yackety Yack, leading a small team re-launching Carolina’s yearbook. The yearbook went on a two-year hiatus, but Ward was intent on helping bring the Yack back to life. She says this year’s edition will be dedicated to Coach Dean Smith.

Oh, and FYI: The deadline to order one is May 1.

1. Your poster describes a project in which you developed a pilot curriculum designed to expose students with disabilities to engineering topics, hoping that it might spark their interest in the field. What did you learn through this project?

Throughout researching and implementing my engineering lesson, I learned that students with disabilities do not get involved with science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields. Most of these students also do not pursue these types of careers when furthering their education and this is due to a lack of resources available to them in their schools and everyday lives.

Providing these students with just a one day engineering lesson sparked a greater interest in engineering. These students with disabilities vocalized wanting to learn and do more similar activities in the future.

Not only do students enjoy learning about this material, but they can learn a lot of valuable skills for the future when participating in STEM curriculum, such as creativity, problem solving, collaboration and communication. Overall, this educational practice demonstrated the importance of STEM learning.

2. What has surprised you in learning about the field of education through your participation in the Education Minor?

I am surprised that STEM is not as dominant in schools as I would have thought. STEM is growing in our society and careers that demand an applied understanding of STEM are quickly replacing traditional occupations. This demonstrates a crucial need for all students to learn these main subjects. Therefore, STEM and students equal the future of education.

3. What were the toughest challenges in re-launching the Yackety Yack, and what were the greatest joys?

The toughest challenge of re-launching the Yackety Yack has been selling the yearbook because many undergraduates do not know our university even has a yearbook. Getting the Yackety Yack name out in the school community this year has definitely been a challenge.

However, the 2015 yearbook is coming along beautifully and it will be completed in May. The completion of this book will be the ultimate joy of seeing this organization come back together to design and produce a meaningful yearbook dedicate to the one and only Coach Dean Smith.

After two years of not having a yearbook, I feel honored to have worked with such an amazing dedicated staff and executive team. This book is unquestionably one you will not want to miss out on.