EDINBURG,Texas -14 October 11
HESTEC: Spreading the STEM Message by Example
By: Heather L. Ogletree
During Hispanic Heritage Month, members of NASA, industry and congress came together to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at the Hispanic Engineering, Science, and Technology Conference (HESTEC), which was held at the University of Texas Pan America (UTPA) from September 25 to October 1, 2011.
UTPA serves as great venue for the conference since it is a high Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI) in a largely Hispanic community, where future and current generations of STEM can be reached at the same time. NASA employees, contractors and civil servants, hosted events all throughout the week such as a downlink featuring Astronaut Mike Fosum, the Middle School Challenge and Community Day.
NASA also took part in the HESTEC Career Exposition, and as the project coordinator for NASA’s largest nationwide undergraduate internship program, the Undergraduate Student Research Project (USRP), I joined Holly Triska and Jessica Feinstein on Friday, September 30, 2011, to speak with over 300 students about NASA opportunities, encouraging them to build on their classroom-taught foundation with hands-on experience.
Triska, who manages NASA’s largest scholarship program that focuses on under-represented or underserved students, or MUST, commented, “Career fair participants had the unique opportunity to learn about an array of professional development programs from NASA Headquarters, USRP, MUST and Co-op staff. Our hope is that the information and guidance provided will result in several successful applications to NASA and other STEM opportunities.”
Feinstein, a Human Resources Specialist who represented the JSC Cooperative Education program, added, “Working with the NASA recruiting staff was such a great reminder of how different perspectives [and] backgrounds...bring a richness to the NASA culture that feeds our success. In conversations with the students, we were able to demonstrate how we respect the roles each of us have to play to make for a successful organization.
These different backgrounds were also apparent in the variety of interested parties that came up to the NASA Education booth. There were teachers, career advisors, public affairs staff as well as UTPA students who covered a wide spectrum of majors, from business and education to STEM. However, many of the business, finance, human resources, and education majors seemed a bit hesitant to come up to the NASA booth; they were unsure if NASA had opportunities for them, too. Feinstein noted, “I’m so glad there were a few brave business majors who took the initiative to stop by our table. When I explained to them that we have a need for business students, they were pleasantly surprised. It’s amusing to me that as famous as NASA is people forget that we’re not all engineers and scientists.” In fact, all three members of the booth team came from non-science backgrounds – Feinstein came from human resources, Triska came from international business, and I came from a journalism and program management background.
Looking back on the entire day, Feinstein summarized students’ responses to NASA’s presence at HESTEC best. She remarked, “My favorite part of the day was when a student said to me ‘you love your job, don’t you? Everyone I talk to at NASA loves their job.’” This inherent enthusiasm that contractors and civil servants exude for NASA, itself, serves as a living testament as to why students should continue their STEM education and become part of the NASA team. Therefore, in terms of informing, engaging and inspiring students in STEM, HESTEC was a definite success.