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Young leaders experience what DIA has to offer STEM community

By Jordan Bishop, DIA Public Affairs

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Recognizing the need to develop mutually beneficial relationships with students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the Defense Intelligence Agency hosted 20 middle and high school chief science officers from the U.S., Mexico and Kuwait Oct. 9 for the second consecutive year.

The CSO Program is an international organization with local chapters in 10 states and three countries. It is the first of its kind, where peers in grades six through 12 elect students in their schools to be leaders and STEM liaisons in their communities. The program amplifies student voices by fostering collaborative communication and networking among students and with external stakeholders, including government and industry. Exposing students to careers that use STEM is a point of emphasis for CSO.

“We brought back the CSOs because it gives DIA another opportunity to connect with STEM students who are at an age when curiosity is very high, and they’re forming ideas about their future,” said Lyle Barksdale, the Office of Corporate Communications program manager. “We get to offer them exciting insights into what we do as a government agency that helps defend the nation. On the other hand, we learn from them as well. Their fresh perspectives lead to students asking pointed, thought-provoking questions.”

The day’s events started with the students receiving briefs, presentations and participating in hands-on activities with OCC, the Office of Human Resources, the Office of Space and Counterspace, the Office of Technical Operations, the National MASINT Office, and the National Media Exploitation Center.

The students were able to see a variety of tools, devices and technologies used by NMEC, OTO and NMO and were provided demonstrations on how the topics CSOs are learning in school are used in a professional environment at DIA, currently and historically.

“Prior to coming to DIA, I had heard of floppy discs, but I didn’t really know what they were,” said CSO Shalae from Arizona with a smile. “I’d never seen or touched one. So that was a really interesting experience to see some of the technology used previously in the industry.”

During the visit, the CSOs heard from DIA Deputy Director Suzanne White, Chief of Staff Johnny Sawyer and the Deputy Director for Commonwealth Integration Maj. Gen. John Howard.

“I am thrilled to see the increased value placed on the STEM field, and I am equally thrilled to know that there are young people who are genuinely interested and are making a difference in their communities,” said White. “This is what we need at DIA – young, vibrant, motivated individuals like you, who will offer new and creative ideas.”

As the event concluded, the students explained that visiting DIA provided a realistic glimpse into how their studies could impact future national and global missions.

“I’m very grateful to see STEM used in an applicable way. It’s not just abstract,” said CSO Maggie from Michigan. “It’s been interesting to see how DIA uses tech in defense of our country.”

According to Kelly Greene, the CSO’s director of student success, the visit to DIA isn’t just a recruitment opportunity for the Agency; it creates advocates for DIA far beyond the National Capital Region.

“One of the four major goals of our program is to build awareness,” she said. “We ask students to share and promote DIA as a career opportunity when they go back home.”

To learn more about the CSO Program, please visit chiefscienceofficers.org

 

Editor’s note: Surnames of students have been withheld.