Schmitz Celebrates Learning Beyond the Classroom
Note: This series spotlights the people who educate Piedmont University students. We ask them about their childhood, their first jobs, and why they love what they do.
Before she was Dr. Julia Schmitz, the Piedmont University associate biology professor took ballet lessons, played basketball, and was a cheerleader.
Schmitz was a Girl Scout, too, and not just any scout. She earned the Gold Award, an honor reserved for the organization’s highest achievers. She remembers looking through a telescope at the stars with her dad and an uncle to earn her astronomy badge.
Her parents encouraged Schmitz to dig into any subject that grabbed her attention.
“When I showed an interest in diseases, my parents supported me taking two intensive summer college courses while in high school so I could explore these interests more,” Schmitz said. If she weren’t a professor now, Schmitz would be researching diseases in a lab.
Later, when Schmitz was a graduate student, a mentor noticed her natural teaching ability and suggested she consider entering the profession. Higher education appealed to Schmitz because she could teach various courses and mentor students in their research.
Schmitz is now in her 12th year as a Piedmont professor.
On both of Piedmont’s campuses, Schmitz is well known for her key role in Symposium, an annual celebration of undergraduate research and creative inquiry. Launched in 2019 with 88 student research presentations, more than 400 students took part in Symposium last year, sharing 255 projects that reflected their academic achievements and endeavors.
“I’ve watched how Symposium has grown over the past four years, including the novel ways that faculty and staff incorporate opportunities for our students to perform research, allowing them to learn practical skills in their fields of study,” Schmitz said.
Schmitz enjoys spending time with students both inside and outside of the classroom. Last semester, she and one of her students would start the day off with a Wordle battle, for example. Other times, students celebrate with Schmitz when they land a dream job or get accepted into graduate school.
“I valued the interactions I had as a student with my professors, and I wanted to teach at a small school where I could get to know my students beyond the classroom. Piedmont allows me to help my students achieve their dreams and celebrate their accomplishments.”