Get to know Ben Smith: Director of the STEM Center

The STEM Center is located on the second floor of Hoover Library (Photo courtesy of Ben Smith)

As many of you know, McDaniel College has a STEM Center located on the second floor of the Hoover Library. The College announced that Ben Smith would become the director of the center last fall. 

“McDaniel had posted that they were looking to hire someone to start the STEM Center, and everything I read about McDaniel made me want to be here. Everything I read about students and faculty made it seem like a welcoming place that truly cares about students,” said Smith. 

Before arriving at McDaniel, he was at Hamilton College serving a similar role to his position in the STEM Center.

         “Previously, I was the director of the Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning Center at Hamilton College in Upstate New York. The Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning Center is a very similar kind of program to the STEM Center, and I was in that role for eight years,” said Smith.

         The STEM Center helps with lots of classes that are STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, related. The tutors who help with these subjects or fields are called learning assistants. 

         “STEM Center Learning Assistants primarily tutor first and second year courses. The learning assistants help with 1000 and 2000 level courses in disciplines like Accounting, Biology, Computer Science, Chemistry, Economics, Statistics, Environmental Studies, Physics and Math,” said Smith.

       “We are open six days a week and are drop-in, so students don’t have to make an appointment, they can just show up to the STEM Center space during the times that their course or courses are supported. We have a portal page on MyMcDaniel that lists when each of the different classes are supported,’ he added. 

Although the STEM Center is very easily accessible for all students who may be seeking their services, the space can also be used for other purposes. 

“The STEM Center is not just about a place to go and get help, it’s also a collaborative study space. We encourage students to use the space for just doing their own work individually, study groups, finding study groups, and of course working with our Peer Learning Assistants just making use of our awesome whiteboard,” said Smith. 

         Outside of the STEM Center, Smith serves in several other roles around the College. 

         “I oversee day-to-day operations of the STEM Center itself and train the STEM Center staff. I teach classes in math and learning theory, and I work with my faculty colleagues on ways to improve STEM pedagogy,” he said. 

         “The STEM Center is a place where all students can engage with STEM material and improve their understanding. It’s not just for students who feel like they need more help, it’s for all students who [want to]  improve their understanding in the sciences, majors, and non-majors alike,” said Smith.

         The  Center also has some really cool tools that both students and learning assistants can use to make life easier for everyone.

         “We have a lot of dynamic digital tools like ferro-magnetic tempered glass whiteboards that never stain or smudge, collaboratory stations with a monitor for students to share their screens easily with one another, and a hy-flex conference room with an interactive digital whiteboard allowing for simultaneous virtual and in person grouping interactions,” said Smith.

         Smith is very excited to see how students can learn more from the learning assistants. With the assistance of the STEM Center, they do not just need to go to office hours with professors for help, and can seek support from qualified learning assistants instead. 

         “We have a staff of 20 trained undergraduate peer learning assistants who are excited and eager to work with fellow students with their coursework. I’m excited to have the privilege and opportunity to launch this program and help provide a new comprehensive resource for McDaniel students,” said Smith.

         Any students taking a class that is  STEM related  should remember that this is another resource for them and that a learning assistant is ready to help.