Summer Camp(us)

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UW Tacoma hosts a number of youth-oriented programs during the summer that are designed to get local students excited about the future.

Access is to education is a core component of UW Tacoma’s mission. The campus aims to open doors for the next-generation of students whether they choose to enroll here or at a different institution. This means getting young people excited about the possibilities. What better place to do this then on the campus itself? The university runs or hosts a number of youth-oriented programs throughout the year. Summer is an especially busy time as middle and high-school students come to campus to learn about everything from watersheds to cybersecurity. 

With that in mind, here are some of the programs held on campus this summer.

Math Science Leadership

For 17 years UW Tacoma’s Math Science Leadership (MSL) program has provided a platform for underrepresented youth in grades 7-12 to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through different lessons and activities.

Traditionally a three week program, MSL shifted formats this year. “We’re in the process of redesigning and reimagining what MSL looks like,” said Amanda Figueroa, senior director of student transition programs. “We want to help students develop the skillsets, attitudes and knowledge to work across differences because that is something employers are looking for.”Math Science Leadership students working on a project about watersheds while visiting Mount Rainier.

This year’s program is spread out over several months including a week in summer followed by two days in the spring and winter. “We’re experimenting this year,” said Figueroa. Instead of learning about different STEM-related topics, students in this year’s cohort are focused on a specific theme. “Youth are developing their own understandings of ‘water is life’,” said Figueroa.

To understand the concept, Figueroa and the rest of the MSL staff organized two fieldtrips, one to Mount Rainier and the other to the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. “We want them to understand the connections between watersheds, glaciers, rivers and the water they use every day,” said Figueroa. Students created their own mental maps to document their experiences. “They will then develop a service project related to ‘water is life,'” said Figueroa.


MSL isn’t the only program that brought middle schoolers to campus. From July 15 to August 1, UW Tacoma hosted GenCyber. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) administer the camp which is designed to get young people interested in cybersecurity.

Nearly three dozen students from local middle and high schools participated in the free program. “We developed different hands-on activities to help them learn about cybersecurity first-principles,” said School of Engineering & Technology Associate Professor Yan Bai, the principal Students in the GenCyber program gave final presentations on different aspects of cybersecurity before an audience that included friends and family.investigator of the NSA grant that funds UW Tacoma’s program. She, along with lecturer D.C. Grant and Figueroa organized the three-week camp.

Students heard from professionals who work in cybersecurity. “We had 10 different guest speakers from industries and government including Microsoft and the City of Tacoma,” said Bai. “We also took some fields trips, including one to the Washington State History Museum.”

Current UW Tacoma undergraduate and graduate students assisted with the camp as did educators from the community.  Bai hopes to continue the camp next year and expand availability to a larger audience. “We really want to get more students involved,” she said. “There are a lot of opportunities in cybersecurity that we want to make these young people aware of if they’re not already.”

Washington Business Week

Renton-based nonprofit Washington Business Week (WBW) developed its first youth-oriented program back in 1976. “The goal of the program is to get students ready to join the workforce and become future business leaders in their communities,” said Nicole Winters, the organization’s director of operations.

Washington Business Week and the Milgard School of Business developed a relationship with the goal of getting the program on campus. “We’ve partnered with Washington Business Week the last few years on other college campuses, but it really made sense to advance our partnership and have a camp session take place here at UW Tacoma,” said Milgard School of Business Undergraduate Advisor & Recruiter Heidi Norbjerg. “We’re centrally located, plus we have academic programs that relate to all of the WBW pathways.”

Roughly 50 students in grades 9-12 attended the inaugural camp at UW Tacoma from July 15 to July 19. The Milgard School of Business sponsored 10 students and also awarded two $1,500 UW Tacoma scholarships.

Students were organized into teams. Each team worked with an advisor, typically someone from a business or a nonprofit. “For our first-ever program at UW Tacoma, we had business, healthcare and technology pathways where students are given real-life scenarios that people in these industries may face,” said Winters. “At the end of the week students presented to judges from the local business community

Students also got to hear presentations from guest speakers including Megan Cooley, an associate director in UW Tacoma’s admissions office, who spoke about preparing for college.

Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / August 22, 2019
Photos by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge, Ryan Moriarty
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or