By ALAN J. ORTBALS
Not only is McKendree University the oldest college in the state of Illinois, it also boasts the oldest chapter of the Sigma Zeta National Honor Society. The society’s purpose is to foster the attainment of knowledge in the natural and computer sciences and mathematics. McKendree hosted the society’s national convention two years ago.
“It allows students in that organization to present their research to other students and faculty across the country,” said Michele Schutzenhofer, associate professor of biology and chair of the division of science and mathematics at McKendree. “It’s something we really encourage our students to take part in. I’m a graduate of McKendree and I remember going to those national conventions. Presenting your work and seeing other students present their work shows students that science is a community of learners and that’s valuable.”
Members of Sigma Zeta get involved in promoting science and math in the community. For example, they judge science fairs in local high schools and do educational outreach.
“The Collinsville school district hosted a STEM expo for all third-graders in their district and we had a group of students go there and represent McKendree,” said Schutzenhofer. “They brought microscopes and specimens and the students really enjoyed hearing from our college students about science.”
McKendree also participates in a number of science and math events. The University hosted the first robotics competition and continues to participate in that annual event. It also hosted the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and participates in the Worldwide Youth Science in Education challenges.
On the other end of the equation, McKendree enjoys strong relationships with the business community and places interns with companies and institutions like Millipore-Sigma and the St. Louis Zoo.
“We always have a lot of research opportunities for our students with our faculty here at McKendree,” Schutzenhofer said.