Partnerships & Philanthropy

Texas A&M Foundation Hosts Second Exploration Day, Features Texas A&M Maritime Academy


—The Texas A&M Foundation hosted more than 600 of its top donors to campus Thursday morning for its second annual Exploration Day, a fully-immersive event showcasing high-impact research and academic initiatives by Texas A&M University students and faculty.

“Last year’s Exploration Day event was a step in a new direction for the Foundation, and it was a big hit,” said Tyson Voelkel, president of the Texas A&M Foundation. “This year, we once again had the pleasure of collaborating with campus leaders to create experiences that sparked donors’ curiosity, celebrated their impact, and built a stronger relationship between them and Texas A&M.” 

The event was held on Mar. 5 in the Hall of Champions on Texas A&M’s campus. Attendees were treated to four experiences from different disciplines, each showcasing the wide variety of programs and research initiatives that benefit from their contributions. This year’s event included experiences hosted by the Bush School of Government and Public Service, the Texas A&M Health Science Center, the Texas A&M College of Architecture and the Texas A&M Maritime Academy.

“Exploration Day is a wonderful way for our most engaged donors to stay connected to the exciting things that are happening across our campus,” said Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young, who gave a keynote address during the event. “It’s also an important way for us to express our gratitude for their steadfast support, which helps make these types of programs possible.”

Attendees enjoyed a presentation from the   Bush School  exhibiting its intelligence studies program, which has placed approximately 300 graduates in intelligence careers. Guest speakers from the Bush School stressed the public need for dedicated young Americans to pursue intelligence careers in the interest of national security. Presenters also emphasized the school’s evolving intelligence initiatives in the aftermath of 9/11 and the impact that educators with real-world experience have on students within the program.

Professor James Olson, who was formerly Chief of Counterintelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency, participated in the presentation. “I don’t think many of our donors were aware before today that the Bush School is building an outstanding intelligence studies program,” Olson said. “I’m proud that the Bush School is doing its part in preparing Aggies for exciting and important careers in keeping our country safer.”

In a hands-on experience put on by the   College of Architecture , attendees learned about the   Learning Interactive Visualizations Experience (LIVE) Lab  within the Department of Visualization. The LIVE Lab is a one-of-a-kind program that employs graduate and undergraduate students who build high-end educational video games for use in classrooms across the globe. André Thomas, director of the LIVE Lab, demonstrated two games created by students in the program,   ARTe: Mecenas  and   Variant: Limits.

“It was such an honor to meet and present to our donors at Texas A&M,” said Thomas. “Words can’t describe the gratitude I feel toward every single one of our donors, because they help our students and faculty and allow us to be one of the best universities in the world for students and researchers.” Attendees gained an inside perspective on how student-produced titles in the LIVE Lab can teach subjects such as calculus and art history through intuitive gaming experiences impossible to replicate in a traditional classroom.

Representatives from the   Health Science Center  gave attendees an inside look at   Disaster Day , the largest student-led interprofessional emergency response simulation in the country. Part of the presentation highlighted a former student from the College of Nursing who utilized skills she had developed through the program in the wake of the tragic 2017 Las Vegas shooting.

“Exploration Day was a tremendous opportunity for us to highlight how important it is for professionals from multiple disciplines to work together in times of tragedy,” said Dr. Angela Clendenin, instructional assistant professor in the School of Public Health. “We were honored to demonstrate the impact the Disaster Day training exercise has on preparing the next generation of healthcare professionals to be leaders in times of crisis. Through generous donor support, programs like Disaster Day ensure that the healthcare workforce of tomorrow will be equipped and ready to respond when disaster strikes.”

Finally, guests were brought on deck for a tour of the state-of-the-art ship simulator used by Aggies in the   Texas A&M Maritime Academy  at Texas A&M University at Galveston, one of only six state maritime academies in the United States. While they explored the simulator, representatives from the maritime academy explained how it allows cadets to test their naval navigation skills in a controlled and accurate environment before they go behind the mast of a real ship.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to showcase the Galveston Campus and the Texas A&M Maritime Academy during the Foundation’s Exploration Day,” said Col. Michael Fossum, chief operating officer and vice president of Texas A&M University at Galveston. “The education and training we provide our students prepares them to literally drive the blue economy in the Gulf region. We’re grateful to be able to share the technology we use with our Aggie supporters.”

After guests explored all four experiences, Texas A&M President Michael K. Young gave a keynote address during lunch in which he thanked donors for their support throughout the   Lead by Example  campaign, a $4 billion fundraising effort for the university that recently reached its $3.8 billion point. The campaign is the largest higher education campaign in Texas history and one of the largest conducted nationally by a public university.


The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that aspires to be among the most trusted philanthropies in higher education. It builds a brighter future for Texas A&M University, one relationship at a time. To learn more, visit


Launched in 2015, Texas A&M University’s third comprehensive fundraising campaign, Lead by Example, is a joint effort between Texas A&M and its affiliate fundraising organizations: the Texas A&M Foundation, The Association of Former Students, the 12th Man Foundation and the George and Barbara Bush Foundation. With a goal of reaching $4 billion by 2020, it is the largest higher education campaign in Texas history and one of the largest conducted nationally by a public university. For more information, visit .    

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