Pictured above: Students at Tennessee Tech’s 2024 Governor’s School for Technological Innovation and Business Leadership (GSTIBL)

Each summer Tech hosts around 70 upper-level high school students collectively in its Governor’s School

The rising junior and senior high school students attending Tennessee Tech University’s Governor’s Schools this month could be the entrepreneurs and technology professionals of the future.

Each summer Tech hosts around 70 upper-level high school students collectively in its Governor’s School for Emerging Technologies (GSET) and Governor’s School for Technological Innovation and Business Leadership (GSTIBL). Out of 11 Governor’s Schools across the state, Tech is one of only three universities to host more than one.

GSTIBL is led by Tech’s College of Business and GSET is led by the College of Engineering, in partnership with the College of Education, College of Arts and Sciences, Millard Oakley STEM Center and more.

“The participants come from all over the state. They may not know each other when they arrive, but by the time the Governor’s School is over, they don’t want to leave each other,” said Susan Wells, GSTIBL director and senior lecturer of decision sciences and management at Tech.

That’s because Governor’s Schools offer an immersive experience to provide carefully nominated and selected high-performing students an opportunity to learn about fields that interest them while, for many, simultaneously offering college credit.

“They are actually enrolled in the university for four weeks, and they have to immerse themselves as if they were running a business – from conception to start-up – during that time. They go to classes, they work on group projects, they meet with an industry person from their project area who serves as their mentor,” Wells said.

The GSTIBL has three core focus areas: entrepreneurship, innovation and technology, culminating with a business plan for an app, product or service that the teams must pitch to “potential funders.”

In the entrepreneurship area, participants will learn about business law and ethics, how to create a business plan and see organizational behavior in action as they work in teams on their own projects. The innovation area teaches them how to think critically and creatively to create a business model, while the technology focus incorporates technology management, cybersecurity and ethical uses for artificial intelligence.

The GSET is designed to give participants experience in science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – fields through immersion in emerging technologies and a survey of current trends in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology and more.

On campus, participants attend traditional classes, discussions, laboratory exercises and team and individual research projects, led by co-directors Cory Gleasman, instructor of curriculum and instruction, and Chris Wilson, chairperson of basic engineering at Tech.

They also attend weekly field trips to cutting-edge research facilities to learn from experienced scientists and researchers. Previous partners for the high school summer enrichment program have included Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University’s Institute for Nanoscale Science and Engineering, Arnold Engineering and Development Center, University of Tennessee Space Institute, Tennessee Aquarium and more.

But it’s not all work and no play. The evenings and weekends are reserved so both groups get to have some fun; for instance, the GSTIBL organizers are planning a trip to Dollywood.

Tech faculty say the Governor’s Schools are a great way to showcase the university to some of the state’s top high school students. Wilson said he appreciates knowing that, even if the Governor’s School participants choose other universities, they will ultimately carry a piece of Tech with them because of the experiences they had on campus.

“Part of my mission is to get them to come to Tech,” said Wells, who is directing her seventh Governor’s School this year and has been involved since its inception in 2000.

One of the changes Wells said she has seen in her years of involvement is the increased number of young women who apply for the Governor’s School.

“The first year, we had only three young women attend. This year and for the past few years, we’ve had a female majority. We’re getting more and more applications from young women each year, it seems,” she said.

Wilson said he is always impressed by the capability exhibited by GSET students.

“The amount of intellectual capability in these students is remarkable. For me, helping them make pathways toward exploring STEM in college is something I find rewarding,” he said.

Governor’s Schools are funded by the state, and each student selected for the competitive program receives a scholarship covering the full cost of tuition, housing and meals. GSTIBL will run through June 29, while GSET concluded June 22. To learn more about GSTIBL, including guidelines for applying next year, visit HERE.

For more about the GSET, visit HERE.

Photo courtesy of Tech.

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