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Discovering higher education

From Laredo, Donna and across the state, hundreds of buses bring school children and teachers to Austin for Explore UT

Feb. 28, 2011

Thousands of volunteers, thousands of visitors and hundreds of activities make Explore UT one of the largest open house events in the country. On the first Saturday of every March, The University of Texas at Austin invites the state of Texas to explore its resources, residential life, technology, art and research. About 50,000 people arrive on campus for Explore UT to have fun learning with faculty, staff and student volunteers.

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“Explore UT helps fuel the hunger our students have to attend college,” said Randy Sheldon, a social studies teacher at C.E. King High School in Houston. “Explore UT gives them the experience of college that they’ve never had before. This is the first exposure to a large university that our students get as freshmen. The exposure has always been positive — it makes them excited about various career choices and makes them want to see more.”

C.E. King High School has brought its students from Houston for Explore UT for the past several years. The high school participates in the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, which provides tutoring and advanced courses to middle and high school students — many from low-income families, and many who could be first-generation college graduates — to help prepare them for college. Events like Explore UT support the program’s mission to expose students to the world of postsecondary study.

“This event has inspired many [former students] to go on to pursue higher education,” Sheldon said. “Most [students] come back from Explore UT wanting to know if they could go with us to visit other colleges. Many return [to Houston] wanting to attend UT.”

Hidalgo Independent School District is participating in Explore UT for the first time this year. The entire eighth grade class — 150 students — from Ida Diaz Junior High in the Hidalgo school district will board school buses in the Valley for a five and a half hour trip to Austin to participate in Explore UT and later tour the State Capitol before making the long ride back home.

Ida Diaz Junior High participates in the Early College High School initiative, a program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Early College High School blends high school and college, compressing the time it takes to earn a high school diploma and complete the first two years of college. The initiative’s priority is to provide a way for underrepresented young people to earn their high school diploma and an associate’s degree or up to two years of credit toward a bachelor’s degree, free of tuition.

Explore UT logo
Explore UT Saturday, March 5 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“When I found out Explore UT had so many activities that had to do with science, math and fine arts, I quickly scheduled the eighth grade class to attend,” said Olivia Hernandez, principal of Ida Diaz Junior High. “We believe if our students visit several universities while they’re in middle school, they will gain the familiarity and confidence to attend college after high school. We are creating an atmosphere of college expectation for our students early in their lives so that they feel sure of themselves when they take that step in the future.”

With hundreds of free and interesting performances, lectures, activities and demonstrations open to people of all ages, Explore UT is the university’s opportunity to share with the people of Texas the rich natural and cultural resources and technological advancements found at a first-class university.

This year’s lineup of events and activities has something of interest for everyone: demonstrations, current event lectures, art tours and activities. Students and families from across the state will have the opportunity to virtually experience flying above the Earth and peeking into microscopic spaces with 3-D goggles at the Jackson School of Geosciences.

Austin’s PBS station in the College of Communication invites everyone to get a behind-the-scenes look at the world of television and music in the famous, original Austin City Limits studio.

The group Student Engineers Educating Kids at the Cockrell School of Engineering can show you how to make a robotic hand to take home with you.

Those who fancy themselves global citizens can put their international knowledge to the test and compete in the world trivia challenge at the McCombs School of Business.

Fans of “True Blood,” “Vampire Diaries” or “Twilight” can learn more about the origins of the vampire in the College of Liberal Arts where a multimedia presentation will show the vampire in its Slavic and Western contexts.

Longhorns returning to campus to visit their alma mater will receive a warm welcome at the Horns Homecoming organized by the Texas Exes. Alumni can reconnect over refreshments and a photo shoot with Hook ‘Em, the university’s mascot. One doesn’t have to be an alum to take part in Bevo’s Photo Booth. Bring a camera and take a photo with the legendary mascot Bevo and members of the Silver Spurs. Bevo’s handlers can’t guarantee Bevo will smile, but you will surely get a photo you’ll want to add to your Facebook page.

Explore UT logo
The 2010 Explore UT “biggest class photo” was in the shape of a heart.

Participants will not want to miss the large-scale “Knitted Wonderland” art installation in the Blanton Museum of Art‘s plaza. International textile artist Magda Sayeg and knitters across Austin will have transformed the Blanton’s tree-filled plaza into a knitted wonderland. All 99 trees in their plaza will be wrapped in knitted, striped textile works.

The University of Texas at Austin celebrates its traditions in many ways, and Explore UT has its own annual events that bring everyone together year after year. Many choose to conclude their day by marching with the Longhorn Band to the Tower to participate in the “biggest class photo” in Texas.

Rain or shine on Saturday, March 5, Explore UT begins at 11 a.m. and concludes at 5 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. More information about parking, food options and a list of activities are available online.

Special Thanks to Our Sponsors and Partners

Explore UT is grateful to the University Co-op for its generosity in serving as the primary sponsor. The University Co-op is cooperatively owned by the faculty, students and staff of The University of Texas at Austin. Earnings support campus events, grants and activities, including the prestigious Robert W. Hamilton Book Awards to recognize faculty authors, the George H. Mitchell Student Awards for Academic Excellence and the Michael Granof Award for Excellence in Graduate Education. Since 2000, the University Co-op has given more then $32 million in the form of gifts, grants and rebates.

Explore UT also expresses appreciation to the University Federal Credit Union for its help in providing bus transportation for the UT Elementary School and for sponsoring the school bus welcoming activities. Amy’s ice cream, served at the Tower after the class photo, is also generously sponsored by the University Federal Credit Union.

Explore UT also receives support from partners on The University of Texas at Austin campus, including the Office of the President and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

For more information, contact: Leslie Lyon, College of Fine Arts, 512 475 7033.