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•   Providing an environment where members can participate in activities that continually improve the workplace.

•   Providing leadership development and networking opportunities.

Education at NASA: Building a Pipeline

NASA has long recognized the potential contributions of minorities and women as a largely untapped resource to support the STEM workforce. NASA’s education programs and projects support the academic training of qualified future workers necessary for accomplishing the Agency’s missions. Many of these projects specifically target recruitment and retention of women and minorities. In turn, NASA seeks to leverage the Agency’s student development pipeline to facilitate entry-level hirings on the basis of proven performance.

NASA assists minority institutions and faculty through multiyear research grants and provides scholarships, internships, mentoring, and tutoring to underserved and underrepresented students. Through the Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP), students attending minority institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), participate widely in the Agency’s research and education programs and its overall mission. Many of these efforts have also had notable success in attracting women. Since 2001, the Harriett G. Jenkins Predoctoral Fellowship Project (JPFP) has sought to increase the number of graduate degrees awarded to underrepresented and underserved persons, women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in STEM disciplines. The ultimate goal is to increase the U.S. talent pool by developing a more inclusive, multicultural, and sustainable STEM workforce. JPFP has supported 210 students since its inception, of which 74 percent have been minority candidates and 60 percent are women.

Having greater numbers of female, underserved, and underrepresented students participating in NASA programs supports the entry of these students into the scientific and technical workforce, as well as their pursuit of advanced STEM degrees. The Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology (MUST) project awards scholarships and internships to undergraduates pursuing degrees in STEM fields. In FY 2010, the MUST project hosted 100 students: 55 percent were women, and 27 percent of the scholars self-reported being the first in their family to attend college.

In FY 2010, 5,605 participants in NASA higher education programs self-reported being a member of an underserved or underrepresented race or ethnic group. This represents 35 percent of the total number of higher education students served by NASA in FY 2010. NASA’s solid recruitment efforts of students meet or exceed the percentages of underrepresented minorities pursuing higher education studies in STEM fields nationwide, according to the National Science Foundation Report “Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2011.”

In FY 2010, of all higher education students served by the Agency, 6,042 participants self-reported being women. This represents 39 percent of the total number of higher education students served by NASA in FY 2010. Within the Space Grant program in FY 2010, of the 12,410 Space Grant participants who self-reported their gender, 4,773, or 38 percent, were women. There were 5,697 higher education students receiving direct awards through Space Grant, with 41 percent being made to female students. Additionally, there were 4,617 significant awards (i.e., $5,000 or more in support or more than 160 hours of participation in an activity)

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