of the 34 Native American tribal colleges scattered across 12
states offers a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering. Lee
Snapp of NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston is working
hard to change that.
is beginning the second year of a two-year assignment to the Salish
Kootenai College at Pablo, Mont., on the Flathead Indian Reservation.
He is working with tribal colleges, government agencies, engineering
societies and others toward establishing a common effort and goals
to foster technical education, particularly engineering.
is committed to development of the next generation of space explorers,
scientists and engineers by encouraging young people to study technical
subjects," said Jefferson D. Howell Jr., Johnson Space Center
Director. "NASA is also aggressively pursuing a more diversified
in his two-year assignment, Snapp and colleagues surveyed the 34
tribal colleges, many of them two-year institutions. Initially,
six expressed interest in development of engineering or pre-engineering
curriculums. Today 11 colleges, including two four-year institutions,
are directly involved in the effort.
of the project include establishing at least one degree-granting
engineering program at one or more of the colleges, perhaps at Salish
Kootenai College, where Snapp serves as dean of engineering. Another
goal is to establish common pre-engineering standards to enable
students to transfer seamlessly among tribal institutions that will
develop engineering programs, and to make it easier for students
to transfer to non-tribal universities for graduate studies.
the effort progresses, information and lessons learned are shared
among the partners. "The answers are exciting, complex and
will require study," said Snapp, who holds a bachelor's degree
in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy and
a master's in astronautics from the Air Force Institute of Technology.
He retired from the Air Force to join NASA in 1989.
colleges are founded in native cultures. They have different priorities
and ways of doing business that must be honored," Snapp said.
"Native culture is not always consistent with the way we do
business at NASA, but we are working very well together. Reaching
out to Native Americans by going to them is critical."
there are challenges, there are advantages that can be used to meet
them. One, Snapp said, is the support he has received from Native
Americans at JSC. He cited contributions by astronaut John Herrington
and Jerry C. Elliott, an engineer in the Shuttle Program Office.
is the welcome he has received from the Native American community.
"They have met me more than halfway," Snapp explained.
That community's elders, people with wisdom, understanding and knowledge,
have been especially supportive of these efforts, as have the tribal
college presidents, he added.
many challenges remain, Snapp said he is encouraged by what already
has been accomplished. "This is an exciting, ambitious program.
JSC, Salish Kootenai College and its partners have taken leadership
roles and will make substantial contributions in educating the next
generation of engineers," he said.
more information about NASA on the Internet, visit: http://www.nasa.gov