York College’s NASA MAA: Inspiring a Generation of Diverse STEM Professionals

african american scientist preparing for geography workshop sitting behind window with huge palm tree in library
Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

This month, we’re proud to shine the spotlight on our client, York College, for whom we serve as evaluator for its NASA Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Aerospace Academy (MAA) Program. York MAA endeavors to realize the following program goals:

  1. Inspire a diverse student population to pursue continuing education and careers in STEM.
  2. Engage and educate these students using rigorous, fun, hands-on, grade-specific, NASA-designed STEM curricula.
  3. Promote understanding and appreciation of STEM education by actively engaging the greater MAA population, including families, pre- and in-service teachers, and schools through targeted family activities and community partnerships.

The opportunities for STEM exposure and engagement afforded to students by York MAA are transformative, in terms of access to innovative STEM programming, and by extension, the tangibility of educational and professional promise. This potential is of great significance when considering that these STEM and lifelong benefits are disproportionately limited to learners from the demographic backgrounds (e.g., Black and Latinx students, girls) and environmental contexts (i.e., urban neighborhoods) served by York MAA. The achievements of York MAA need to be highlighted and celebrated, as it supports the dismantling of would-be barriers to equitable STEM access and participation, catalyzing a generation of diverse, innovative STEM professionals. Many past York MAA participants have gone on to study STEM, earn degrees in STEM, and/or work in STEM or STEM-adjacent careers. These young professionals often attribute York MAA on some level for their interest in, pursuit of, and/or success in STEM. 

The diversity within the program does not conclude with students—teachers and staff also represent a multitude of backgrounds, contributing to the culture of positive science learning and sense of belonging. Teachers often discuss their passion for this work, sharing how “seeing and supporting children that look like me” within the sciences is rewarding. Teachers and aides aspire to instill a sense of positive science efficacy within students, expanding their perspective of what it means to do science, and more importantly, transforming perceptions regarding who can participate in these disciplines—both of which speaks to the national imperative to broaden representation within STEM.

York MAA’s contributions to inspiring young learners of color from urban communities is not only understood by program staff but also acknowledged by the larger community. Anecdotes from parents and families, coverage by local media, and recognition by STEM professionals and societies—to name a few—demonstrate York MAA’s reputation as a high quality, effective STEM education model that contributes a wealth of value to the community. The success of the program is undoubtedly influenced by the tremendous leadership of Dr. Nazrul Khandaker, Director of CUNY York’s NASA MAA Program. His passion, dedication, and expertise make him an incomparable asset to York MAA, Queens, NY, and the broader STEM and education communities. To learn more about this work, read this article about motivating students in STEM authored by Dr. Khandaker.

Do you have a NASA MUREP project you need to evaluate? Or perhaps one you’d like to develop? We’d love to speak with you! Feel free to schedule a consult here.