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Virginia’s Community Colleges and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium Breathe New Life into STEM Takes Flight Initiative

RICHMOND — Students pursuing studies in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields statewide will continue to have access to some of the best and brightest minds at NASA, thanks to an agreement between Virginia’s Community Colleges and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC).

The extended STEM Takes Flight at Virginia’s Community Colleges NASA Research Experience Program will provide a total of 23 students per year for 2017 and 2018, potentially one from each college, with a rigorous research experience at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton or NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Dr. Van Wilson, assistant vice chancellor for academic and student services for Virginia’s Community Colleges, describes the program as competitive and hands-on.

“NASA provides some of the best and brightest of their scientists to work side-by-side with these students. In addition to the technological component, the students also learn the importance of so-called soft skills like teamwork and communication.”

While NASA officials will ultimately determine which students are selected, Wilson says Virginia’s Community Colleges’ responsibility will be to solicit applications from talented and qualified students who are aligned with NASA’s mission and objectives.

Wilson adds that participating students will be involved in the same kind of problem-solving challenges NASA engineers face every day.

“Some of the things that these students are doing, it really is rocket science. It is a level of engagement in STEM that other students just don’t have the opportunity to do.”

TheSTEM Takes Flight at Virginia’s Community Colleges NASA Research Experience Program is designed to foster community college retention in STEM academic tracks through graduation with an associate degree or transfer to a four-year institution. It also embraces the VCCS goals of increasing access to affordable education and training in preparation for workforce success. The program is made possible by joint funding from the VCCS and the VSGC.

STEM Takes Flight at Virginia’s Community Colleges NASA Research Experience Program partners include: the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), NASA Langley Research Center and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility.

The Virginia Space Grant Consortium is part of NASA’s Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. VSGC affiliate members include: Virginia Community College System; College of William and Mary, Hampton University, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, NASA Langley Research Center, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility, Science Museum of Virginia, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Virginia Department of Education, MathScience Innovation Center, Virginia Air and Space Center, and Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology.

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