The University of Maryland Eastern Shore and the nation’s space agency reaffirmed a four-decade-old relationship Tuesday with a formal agreement pledging to develop opportunities for student internships, faculty research and diversifying the aeronautics industry.
The Space Act Agreement calls for “collaborative education, workforce development, research and development, commercialization and testing opportunities on topic of mutual interest to enable a sustained pipeline of diverse talent for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
The signing ceremony culminated months of talks between UMES and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on ways the university can partner with the Wallops Flight Facility in nearby Chincoteague, Va.
The goal, according to the agreement, is “to advance the understanding of suborbital and aeronautical science, research and development projects involving NASA’s research range and other space systems, research and development, to further advance NASA’s mission.”
Dennis Andrucyk, director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., was on hand to affirm his agency’s commitment to the agreement.
With a decommissioned sounding rocket on loan from Wallops as a backdrop, Andrucyk and UMES President Heidi M. Anderson signed three copies of the document in a ceremony staged in the atrium of the university’s Engineering and Aviation Science Complex.
“What this will allow us to do,” Anderson told WMDT, “is have students get hands on experience while they are in school” as well as “internships that will hopefully lead them to jobs here right on … Wallops Island.”
“UMES (is) about making sure our institution has more people of color in all sciences,” Anderson said in a post-ceremony interview with WRDE. “And we are a major footprint in this particular community for doing that.”
This new partnership, NASA noted, will benefit UMES students through opportunities leveraging academic studies with hands on experience through internships, on-site project engagement activities and opportunities to support mission work alongside Wallops professionals.
“NASA Wallops and UMES have a 40-year partnership in providing educational opportunities for students,” Wallops Director David Pierce said. “We see the signing of this agreement as renewal of this long-standing partnership to develop the next generation of aerospace professionals that are going to carry our country forward in the next 20 years.”
As UMES has put greater emphasis on its engineering and aviation science instruction over the past decade or so, graduates have found work with NASA as well as private contractors at the Wallops Flight Facility.
Current UMES senior Kenny Davis is an intern at the Wallops Flight Facility and was on hand for the announcement.
“So many students struggle getting internships throughout the summer and end up having to work somewhere,” Davis told WRDE, “so this opens up a lot of opportunities. Right now the plan is (for me) to go full-time and to actually be a NASA employee in January.”
In a program featuring speakers prior to the signing ceremony, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, participating virtually, called the agreement “another big step forward” in the relationship between NASA and UMES.