When Jacob Schroeder and 30 of his friends from high schools in southwest Texas make the 150-mile trip to The University of Texas at Austin for the ninth annual Explore UT, they will join more than 50,000 people visiting campus that day, but they won't feel like strangers.
This will be a return trip for Schroeder and his friends, who have previously been on campus to meet professors and students, attend science seminars, and learn about majors.
Schroeder spent the past three summers in a college preparatory program run by the university. Now he's excited to volunteer at Explore UT, the annual outreach event showcasing the university for the people of Texas, so he can "give back," he says, and "show younger students that they can also be a part of something great."
Inspiring the next generation to pursue higher education is one of the core goals of Explore UT, the annual outreach event known as "the biggest open house in Texas" that draws thousands of parents, students and visitors from across the state to learn about research and educational opportunities at The University of Texas at Austin.
"Our future depends on the young men and women who will pass through the doors of higher education," says Eric Barron, dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences and chair of Explore UT. "Each year Explore UT fires the curiosity of thousands of students. We hope they will pass through our open doors, enjoy the full range of our activities, and help us shape a great future for Texas."
Visitors to the ninth annual Explore UT on Saturday, March 1 can select from more than 370 free activities designed to inspire a love of learning.
Elementary and middle school students, arriving in school buses from across the state, can search for fossils, build miniature solar cars, attend a Hogwarts Potions class in jungle pharmacology, take part in the mock trial of Gold E. Locks, or make multicultural crafts at the Children's International Festival.
High school students and prospective degree-seekers can meet undergraduates from all of the university's colleges and schools and attend admissions sessions on specific graduate disciplines, such as business, engineering and law.
Political junkies will find plenty to choose from, including an analysis of the 2008 presidential election from one of President Clinton's former advisers, a discussion of U.S.-China business relations, and a multimedia lecture on politics in film by Emmy Award-winning director Paul Stekler.
Visitors can navigate the day's activities with help from volunteers and color-coded maps, or they can use an online tool to create a personalized schedule. A full day might include:
Panning for gold
Experiencing X-Ray vision
Delivering the news on camera
Dancing in the chorus line of a Broadway show
Getting stock tips from finance experts
Attending a "dress for success" fashion show
Making a cyanotype, an 1850s-era photograph
Finding out what killed the dinosaurs
Learning how to improve your home's energy efficiency
Testing out a medieval catapult
Posing for photos with UT mascots.
Capping off the day, the Longhorn Band will march across campus, leading hundreds of participants to the Main Tower, where they will gather for a living insignia photograph. This year's photo will be a giant configuration of the letters "UT."