Discovery led to growth

MU student John Himmelberg’s involvement in STEM Cubs has transformed his Mizzou experience.

Oct. 17, 2023

After transferring to the University of Missouri in 2016, John Himmelberg was hesitant to fully engulf himself in college life. It wasn’t until he found a group of students who were passionate about chemistry that he felt inspired to get out of his comfort zone and volunteer with STEM Cubs — a free program that teaches science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts to Columbia-area elementary and middle school students. 

Through the program, Himmelberg provides children with STEM experiences in a fun and enriching environment.  

“My main goal is to ensure students feel included and can see themselves as future scientists,” Himmelberg said. “I had this really shy student once, and it was hard to get her involved with the material and with other kids. I ended up working with her directly, and at the end of the day, she said, ‘John, I want to be a rocket scientist when I grow up. I don’t want to go home — I want to build more rockets with you!’ That made my heart melt and is why I love doing this and working with this program so much.”

Himmelberg grew from being an assistant to an instructor of the STEM Cubs program. Through orchestrating meetings and providing feedback on lesson plans, he said he’s benefited from real-world experiences that have created a reliable foundation for his growth and excellence. 

“I have learned so much while working with the Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity and STEM Cubs,” Himmelberg said. “A lot goes into putting these events on. Even though the goal is to teach children, the process has helped me with my time management skills, planning and organization.”

In the same way, Himmelberg appreciates the community he has found through the program. He said he loves working with others in the program like Jenn Brown, director of access and outreach initiatives in the Office of Academic Access Leadership and Development. 

“Her work ethic is inspiring, and her attitude and demeanor are something that others would not be able to hold,” Himmelberg said. “Being able to work with someone like that is incredible, and I feel truly lucky.”

Brown said she’s seen Himmelberg’s growth and views him as a valuable resource to the program. 

“John has contributed to every aspect of the program’s growth for the last few years and has reliably served in any capacity that was needed for each event to be successful,” Brown said. “I am incredibly excited to see how his existing familiarity with the program and STEM Cubs innovation will continue to move the program forward and broaden its reach and impact. “

Most importantly, though, Himmelberg said he’s learned how to work well with others. 

“Success lies in the ability to work with others and communicate properly,” he said. “I have grown tremendously in working with little ones, as well as working with members of IDE, the Department of Chemistry, and the College of Education. It has given me a real-world experience that I am grateful for and I’m confident it will contribute to my successes in the future.”

Read more from the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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