UCCS, Northrop Grumman forge partnership

Northrop Grumman’s Russ Anarde talks about the future.
Northrop Grumman’s Russ Anarde talks about the future.

International security company Northrop Grumman Corp., a leading contractor in Colorado’s aerospace and defense industry, has named UCCS as one of the company’s Core University Partners.

The fellowship of the two Colorado Springs mainstays, announced Tuesday during an event at UCCS, is a strategy to bolster the region’s workforce and an investment in the future of American STEM industries.

“To say that I am humbled would be an understatement,” UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said during the event. “We are so humbled, gratified and proud of this announcement this morning.”

Mutual benefit

According to the company’s website, UCCS now is included in a group of more than 25 universities across the country that partner with and receive research funding from Northrop.

“This is an exciting thing for the Colorado Springs community,” said Andy Merritt, the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance’s chief defense industry officer. “To get a corporation with the international recognition and respect that Northrop Grumman has, to recognize this university as being an important player that they want to partner with, says a lot about what’s happening here at the university and within our community.

“University and business partnerships are essential to the growth of a community. It’s going to be fantastic for [Colorado Springs], not only for Northrop Grumman but for the community as a whole, because that workforce development will allow other companies to benefit as well.”

During the announcement, Russ Anarde, Northrop’s corporate lead executive in Colorado Springs, said that the partnership will result in increased financial support for scholarships (specifically STEM-related) and expanded internship opportunities (in-house and at other company locations, including Schriever Air Force Base), as well as many other perks.

Special events are scheduled to start as early as next month with a presentation, lecture and discussion on the James Webb Space Telescope program.

James Webb, which Anarde called “one of the most exciting programs within Northrop Grumman,” is a civilian space program to construct what will be the most powerful space telescope. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the multi-billion-dollar project that is expected to launch in 2018, entering an orbit 1 million miles from the Earth’s surface.

“It probably goes without saying, but this effort requires the best and the brightest STEM workforce possible,” Anarde said. “So today’s announcement is about tomorrow, and it’s about the successor to James Webb. Who will make up the next generation of space workforce to push the envelope of space science?”

The Northrop Grumman team said the partnership will mean more investment in UCCS’ research efforts as well as the development of a collaborative research and development program between the UCCS College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the company’s Information Systems division.

“We intend to launch this year a pilot of this R&D to focus on innovative solutions to cyber-security challenges within the Department of Defense,” Anarde said. “It means working to attract a more diverse workforce by hosting on-site at our facility a program for minority STEM students and promoting STEM to underrepresented populations.”

Events and more

The partnership is also expected to foster career fairs, recruitment opportunities, student workshops, seminars and other programs at the school to help promote STEM-related topics and workforce development.

“We are very excited about the partnership and we look forward to working with the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs to develop strategies and programs that will help continue to attract, engage, excite and retain talented students,” said Veronica Nelson, manager of the company’s Career Pathways Program.

Among the UCCS students attending the announcement were two Northrop Grumman interns — one who will begin working full-time at the company upon graduating this spring, and another whom Anarde said the company hopes to hire after her graduation next year. Using the two as an example, Anarde said the interns are some of the “early fruits of this partnership.”

“Partnerships like the one that we announced today are very, very, very important to us,” Anarde said. “It’s all about efforts to capture the imagination and the talent of bright young students.