CSU Conference Celebrates STEM Alliances, Opportunities

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University will host a major conference on March 28 that highlights its growing array of STEM resources — that is, programs to steer more students into science, technology, engineering and math careers.

NeXtGen STEM: Innovative Solutions for Tomorrow’s Emerging Workforce will unite CSU efforts across three academic colleges and more than a dozen disciplines with external experts from industry, government, small business and other universities, as well as one of America’s pioneers of space exploration.

"We’re interested in companies and people beyond Columbus State seeing what we’ve been developing here and how it relates to them," said conference organizer Shawn Cruzen, professor of astronomy and director of CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center.

CSU’s annual Hunter Lecture, featuring astronaut Bernard A. Harris Jr., will be held that night at the city’s Convention and Trade Center as part of the "immersion conference." Now a managing partner in a venture capital firm that focuses on health care, Harris has also enjoyed success as a physician and businessman.

The conference will open with an Engineering and Robotics Expo from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at CSU’s Woodruff Gym. The expo is designed to offer "an inside look at the flash, fun and future of STEM careers and technology." CSU and students from elsewhere will have an opportunity to interact with industry representatives and witness robotics demonstrations and other technological applications. Exhibitors will also share their innovations.

A centerpiece of the conference will be a noon-2:30 p.m. NeXtGen STEM Roundtable Lunch and Forum that will highlight industry-education partnerships. Among the panelists will be Kamau Bobb, coordinator of the University System of Georgia’s STEM Initiative; Stephen Ruffin, director of the Georgia Space Grant Consortium; representatives of industry, including private space exploration companies; and representatives of Columbus State and other universities.

Becca Hardin, executive vice president for economic development of the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce, will serve as moderator of the Cunningham Center forum, which is open to the public. For more information, including ticket details, visit http://ColumbusState.edu/nextgenstem/.

Harris, who first gained fame as the first African American to walk in space, will be speaking at 7 p.m. in Foundry Hall at the convention center. As an astronaut at NASA, he conducted research into musculoskeletal physiology and osteoporosis. In the course of developing in-flight medical devices to extend astronaut stays in space, Harris logged more than 438 hours and traveled over 7.2 million miles in space over 18 years.

His lecture is free and open to the public.

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Photo: Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr. (high-resolution original)

This video biography of Harris was created upon his induction into the Horatio Alger Association in 2000.