This piece is part of our ISS360 reflections series highlighting the 2022 International Space Station Research and Development Conference.
In a keynote at the 2022 International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC), Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten said that creating a diverse workforce in the space industry starts with equality in education. She discussed the importance of partnerships between the space industry and entities like the Department of Education to create education programs that inspire students of all backgrounds to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
During the keynote session, Marten said that rigorous STEM education programs should reach students from preschool through college in communities nationwide. It’s essential, she said, to foster an accessible, inclusive approach where “every learner who has ever looked up into the sky and dreamed of something they want to be” can access opportunities at their local neighborhood school.
“When partnerships work, accessibility happens,” said Marten, emphasizing that programs are valuable when they offer access to experts and experiences that introduce students to the diversity of STEM careers.
She discussed several programs that exemplify successful partnerships, including the Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program with NASA. This nationwide partnership supports student teams at 148 sites across the U.S. as they interact directly with NASA scientists and engineers to tackle engineering design challenges and learn about scientific investigation processes. She also mentioned CTE Mission: CubeSat, a national challenge that helps students develop technical skills for careers in space by building CubeSat (cube satellite) prototypes or satellites that aid space research.
“We say kids can’t aspire to careers that they don’t even know exist,” said Marten. “So, when we put programs like that together, we show what equity and accessibility look like.”
Marten has a distinguished 32-year career in education as a teacher and most recently as the superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, where she increased graduation rates and championed award-winning policies for staff and students.