All 12 of Auburn University’s colleges participated in a special research project last year led by an unusual principal investigator — a sixth grader in Corning, California. your project? To get as much information as possible about Auburn.
The Auburn Department of Art & Art History received a handwritten letter from the Maywood/Da Vinci Academy of Arts and Sciences student in the fall of 2021 requesting information so she could complete the research project for the school.
“I am interested in receiving information about your department at Auburn University. I would like to know about admissions requirements, financial aid, student life at Auburn University and anything else you could send me,” the letter reads. “When I learn more about your university than any student writing to other universities, we will decorate our classroom in your school colors and your mascot, Aubie the Tiger. Thanks for your time. Come on, Aubie the tiger!!”
Charmed by the letter and the student’s interest in Auburn, Nita Robertson, Administrative Assistant for Arts and Art History and 2021 Fellow of the College of Liberal Arts, shared the project with every college on campus. And every single college responded, sending boxes of shirts, scarves, buttons, brochures, and other swag to California.
“I received very positive feedback from all universities. Whether we won or not, the whole point was to share Auburn with her,” Robertson said. “Being from California and coming from a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) school, she applied to a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) school, so I wanted to show her what Auburn has to offer and how we are down here.”
Martin Jimenez, a Maywood/Da Vinci Academy of Arts and Sciences teacher who has led the project for 14 years, said Auburn’s response was the most overwhelming he’s ever seen. Aside from the £80 of information and swag sent to the school, he said Auburn’s enthusiasm got to the heart of the project.
“Auburn University has had such a great response,” Jimenez said. “These kids were so excited because they know that someone out there in the world is motivated and excited to give them the opportunity to learn about their school and get them excited about education.”
Each semester, Jimenez assigns the research project to his students so they can connect with universities and colleges across the country. Corning, California is a small, non-college town, so the purpose of the project is to educate students about the value of higher education and to expose them to the various opportunities they have outside of the community.
For Jimenez, who was a first-generation college student himself, the project is important because it prepares middle school students for a successful future.
“I want to help as much as I can, as soon as I can, to guide these kids so they know there’s an opportunity for them,” Jimenez said. “A lot of the classes they take in middle school affect what classes they can take at the high school level, which directly affects the credits or necessary classes they need to apply to colleges. Telling them that what they are doing now may have an impact on their future opens their eyes.”
To celebrate Auburn’s winning response, students in Jimenez’s class created a mural of the Auburn logo to hang in the classroom — bringing the interaction back to art, where it began in the art and art history department.
“We were very pleased that a student from a STEM school contacted the Department of Art & Art History. She understood that the acronym should actually be STEAM, with the art being a crucial component,” said department chair Joyce de Vries. “When we received this letter, we immediately thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to work together across campus to show this sixth grade student and her fellow sixth graders in rural California what Auburn University is all about: the generous and… enthusiastic advancement of knowledge.”