By Minerva Baumann NMSU News Service
New Mexico State University is one of only 12 universities in the country to receive a cyber infrastructure training grant from the National Science Foundation. The award, worth more than $460,000, will help local high school students gain experience on how information technology is integrated into various disciplines to help them be better informed and skilled when they choose a career.
The three-year grant will fund NMSU’s Cyber Infrastructure Training and Mentoring (CI-TraM) program to train and mentor up to 50 students per year who will spend seven hours a week for two semesters at NMSU’s Computer Center as a job site to learn not only technology skills, but also receive career coaching. “The earlier students can understand how important information technology is and how to use technology effectively, the better off they’ll be throughout the rest of their careers,” said Dugas, principal investigator of the CI-TraM project. The CI-TraM team consists of Dugas, co-principal investigators Satyajayant Misra, computer science professor, Hameed Badaway, electrical and computer engineering professor, and Brian Ormand, a mentor and project manager in NMSU’s Information and Communication Technologies department.
“One of the big bonuses of this program is that students are required to research the factors that typically determine success in their field of interest,” said Ormand. “This includes talking to people who are currently working in their career interest area, researching where the jobs are expected to be for certain degrees, what technical and soft skills will make them competitive in the future job market, how to acquire experience while in school, and how to build a network of mentors and professional contacts.”
“The biggest thing for students at my age is learning what they do not want to do,” said Jillian Hughes, a senior at Centennial High School in Las Cruces and lead technology intern in the program. “However, this program is not just about weeding out what you don’t like, it is about digging deeper into something that does interest you so that you have experience in the field before you try to get an actual job for it. As interns learn more about a topic of interest, they typically become even more excited and motivated,” said Hughes, who was part of a smaller pilot group to test the concept last year.
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