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President’s Partnership of Excellence Award 2008

Good evening. I am pleased to present the third annual President’s Partnership of Excellence Award to the Naval Postgraduate School.

The great promise of a community college is to be the place where every member of the community can come to meet some need, or quench some desire.

--A community college offers an affordable, accessible pathway to a four-year college degree.
--It offers the courses and credentials for career advancement.
--It offers the tools for someone to be eligible to earn more from an honest day’s work.
--It provides a second chance for those who decided late in life to get serious about school.
--It helps English language learners to become full participants in the life of their communities.

But what does it have to do with robotics, aeronautics, or national security?

Plenty, it turns out.

Plenty, that is, if you happen to be Hartnell College and fortunate enough to be in the good graces of your powerful, prestigious neighbor, the Naval Postgraduate School.

Robotics, aeronautics, and national security (or more specifically, artificial intelligence) are some of the areas that the Naval Postgraduate School has offered as paid internships for Hartnell College students over the last few years.

Let me give you some background into this relationship. In 2006, when Hartnell was awarded a NASA grant to increase the enrollment, retention, and transfer of underrepresented science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students, professors at the Naval Postgraduate School stepped up to offer early research and project management experience for our students.

That year, two Hartnell students interned with Dr. Craig Martell on a computer science artificial intelligence project in his Autonomous Coordination Laboratory. The next year, two Hartnell students and one recent graduate worked with Dr. Kevin Squires on projects involving robotics and artificial intelligence while another student worked in Dr. Christopher Brophy’s rocket laboratory.

(And I should acknowledge the contributions of one of our own instructors, Joe Welch in Hartnell’s computer science program, who is an adjunct faculty member at the Naval Postgraduate School. He kind of greased the wheel for these internships by consistently supplying top-notch Hartnell students to the Naval Postgraduate School over several years.)

During the school year, the Naval Postgraduate School has offered its state-of-the-art laboratories and the scientists who work in them as high-powered sites and resources for field trips for Hartnell’s engineering students.

Dr. Martell has offered workshops for students in Hartnell’s Project Management Institute, and acted as a judge for the students’ “longest spinning top” competition. He and Dr. Brophy have come to Hartnell to serve on the NASA grant advisory board.

Over the years, several researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School have come to Hartnell to give talks to our students. Next week, for instance, Dr. Jim Newman, the NASA Visiting Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School and the veteran of four space shuttle flights, will give an afternoon keynote address at Hartnell’s Main Stage theater to help us celebrate Family Science and Health Day.

The impact of this kind of consistent commitment and generosity is enormous. Hartnell’s students see their Naval Postgraduate School professors here on campus for meetings, workshops, and at their science symposium, listening to them making scientific presentations, and they get a sense of how important they are becoming as budding scientists with something to share.

Our students know that it is special to have graduate school professors taking time out of their busy teaching and research careers to spend time on them.

This kind of high-level exposure to sophisticated, rigorous study through mentoring relationships with graduate school professors is turning Hartnell’s science and math students into serious, high-achieving engineers, mathematicians, and computer specialists.

Research shows us that high achievement in math and science are the single best predictors of high wages and successful careers, and the Naval Postgraduate School is helping Hartnell’s high achieving math and science students find exciting new pathways into previously unknown careers and courses of study.

It is one thing to give a student a job. It is quite another to give a student a future.

This award goes to the Naval Postgraduate School for its commitment to giving Hartnell College students a bright and productive future.