The Nevada System of Higher Education was awarded $500,000 through the Nevada NASA Space Grant Consortium for the creation of a new program that will change how Nevada’s community college students learn, and plant the seed for a system which will help staff Nevada’s future space and science related industries.
The program — A Community College Partnership Creating a Community of Practice Model to Engage and Retain Minority Students – will create what is being called a “community of practice” at each campus involved in the program.
“Communities of practice are how humans have traditionally learned since the dawn of time,” said Dr. Darren Divine, vice president of academic affairs for College of Southern Nevada. “People who share similar interests create communities around those interests; students have been doing this for quite some time via study groups. However, this program will take that concept to a whole new level, adding a virtual element that will eliminate distance as an obstacle.”
Each of the four participating campuses — College of Southern Nevada, Western Nevada College, Great Basin College and Truckee Meadows Community College — will link each group to the others with monthly video conferences. Starting in the spring, students will receive support, individualized degree planning and weekly inquiry as they work toward associate of science degrees.
“Students can learn a great deal from one another — sometimes even more than from the classroom itself,” Divine said. “This program will give them access to students from across the state, and as a result, varying perspectives they wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.”
Bigelow Aerospace, which is pioneering work on expandable space station modules, and Sierra Nevada Corporation, which is currently developing an orbital spacecraft called the Dream Chaser, have locations in North Las Vegas and Sparks, respectively.
“Creating a direct path from Nevada’s higher education system to Nevada’s space industry is of critical importance,” said NSHE Chancellor Dan Klaich. “Space is an industry that’s only beginning to take shape. If we can create an environment that will attract this industry to Nevada, it can be the beginning of a high-tech boom in the state, bringing countless jobs and revenue with it. Creating these educational initiatives is where that process begins, because without a workforce to supply that industry, companies will go elsewhere.”