Bridging the Gap between Student Studies and Employment

NMSU president is greeted by the 2nd Engineer Battalion Commander upon arriving at White Sands Missile Range. (Photo courtesy of the Missile Ranger)
NMSU president is greeted by the 2nd Engineer Battalion Commander upon arriving at White Sands Missile Range. (Photo courtesy of the Missile Ranger)
New Mexico State University (NMSU) President Barbara Couture, White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) U.S. Army Brigadier General John G. Ferrari and NASA’s White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) Manager Frank Benz teamed up to discuss the issues of training and employment with recent NMSU graduates and their WSMR and WSTF employers.

Couture initiated the meeting, which was held at the WSMR Frontier Club on March 1, 2012, to inquire about the transition of recent NMSU graduates to the workforce. She invited both recent graduates and their employers to discuss with her the concern of student training and education and the reality of working within their degrees. Couture wanted to confirm her hypothesis that NMSU education and training was beneficial to both student and employer alike but also open up a discussion to find out if NMSU could work with area employers to strengthen NMSU’s programs.

“The New Mexico State University graduates working at WSMR have been educated and trained by some of the best faculty in the field,” Couture said. “In addition to developing strong technical knowledge at NMSU, our grads are prepared with practical skills so they can move quickly into the workforce and become productive members of the work team. I was delighted to meet some of our graduates during our recent visit, and I am proud of their progress.”

Antonette Sanchez, who received a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from NMSU and currently works at NASA WSTF in the Environmental Department, was impressed at Coulture’s inclusion of graduates’ opinions with managements’ at the meeting.

Click for larger imager
Antonette Sanchez (far right) stands with her team during a WSTF Earth Day celebration. From left: Stephanie Portillo, Alanna Mejia, Amanda Skarsgard, Mary Canavan, and Sanchez.
“It’s great to see a bridge being developed between the college and employers in the area and it being communicated to the recent graduates,” Sanchez said.

Jeremy Bruggemann, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and works in the Propulsion Test Office at WSTF, agreed with Sanchez.

“I’m glad to see the interest and desire to produce a bridge between education and industry. Graduates educated and employed locally benefit the community,” Bruggemann said.

Bruggemann is writing his master’s degree thesis on research collaboration. His thesis chair, Chunpei Cia, Ph.D., suggests that students can prepare for the workplace by becoming involved in research early in their academic career.

“This provides them with opportunities to write conference papers and journal articles collaboratively, as well as present their research at conferences,” Bruggemann said.

Space Shuttle Atlantis’ pods were decommissioned at White Sands Test Facility.
Space Shuttle Atlantis’ pods were decommissioned at White Sands Test Facility.
“I think creating a streamlined communication bridge between local employers and the university will help inform students of potential employment opportunities. In turn, this will help employers become aware of the talent that is available for hire and may prompt them to create more cooperative or internship opportunities,” Sanchez said.

Following the meeting, Couture took the opportunity to tour some of the facilities at both WSMR and WSTF. Highlights of the the tour of WSTF were the WSTF hypervelocity impact test facility where types of damage that can occur to spacecraft materials when exposed to micrometeoroid and orbital debris were displayed. Couture also observed the propulsion test area, where preparations for a rocket engine test and the orbital maneuvering subsystem pods/forward module from one of the Space Shuttles being prepared for a museum.

Learn more about NMSU’s degree studies: http://www.nmsu.edu/

Learn more about the White Sands Missile Range: http://www.wsmr.army.mil/Pages/Home.aspx

Learn more about the unique testing capabilities of White Sands Test Facility: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/wstf/home/index.html

Cheerie Patneaude
White Sands Test Facility

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Updated: 07/03/2012