SAIC Mentors STEM Scholars & Tomorrow's Space Pros

SAIC Mentors STEM Scholars & Tomorrow's Space Pros

We ensure Astronaut Scholarship Foundation scholars have the best chances to succeed

Calendar icon 11-07-2019
Profile photo Lee Rizzo
Category icon CITIZENSHIP

I love space. I’ve always loved space. As the government affairs lead for space at SAIC, I am privileged to work with some of the nation’s top experts and decision-makers from government, academia, and industry in the domain. I work with programs that manufacture flight hardware, make recommendations on space policy, perform programmatic support, study climate change, ensure human space flight mission success, provide launch support, discuss space communications—the list goes on.

As a father, I am always seeking opportunities to instill wonder in my children and encourage them to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). I am also drawn to do that for all students. One of my favorite duties is engaging the next generation of engineers who will help us explore the cosmos. Not so long ago, I was able to present satellite imaging to a middle school class. I loved the looks on the students’ faces as they heard about all the possibilities of space technology.

When I learned that SAIC and Engility were combining forces, I became excited not only because of the hundreds of space professionals who joined SAIC but also because Engility brought a meaningful relationship with the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. In fact, our senior VP and NASA account manager, Mike Mazzella, has thrown himself into the role of executive sponsor of this great relationship.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) was created to support top college students in STEM and ensure that the U.S. remains competitive in these fields. ASF awards scholarships to students in their junior and senior years of college who intend to pursue research or advance in their fields upon completion of their degrees. Last year, ASF awarded 50 scholarships to students from 36 different universities across the country. In addition to receiving financial scholarships, scholars also enter into a network of astronauts, alumni, and leaders in academia, technical research, and industry.


FURTHER READING: Space professionals build careers at SAIC


Together with ASF, we host a gala for these talented students each year. Our partnership with ASF supports the best and brightest scholars in STEM while commemorating the legacy of our nation’s pioneering astronauts. Since the dawn of the space race, SAIC has been supporting the most challenging space missions. In our mentoring program, our professionals bring their space experience and build relationships with ASF scholars, who are already quite technically proficient. So where our mentors really help these talented youngsters is offering insights into space careers and being successful professionals.

The scholars in the mentoring program are given the opportunity to network and socialize with each other. Last year, we even created a space-focused scavenger hunt that saw students fan out across the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. Our employees who volunteer their time to mentor them say the benefit is not one-sided; they and the students end up learning a lot from one another, and I get a front-row seat to watch our next generation of space experts emerge.

I look forward to sharing updates as our relationship with ASF matures and I get to invest even more time in SAIC’s STEM initiatives. Did I mention we have a long relationship with the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama? That’s for another day.

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