San Marcos,
15:45 PM

$900K Grant Will Prepare Student Veterans for STEM Careers

by Whitney Frasier

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) awarded California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) Veteran Services a three-year $900,000 grant to establish a veterans-to-STEM initiative through their Energy Systems Technology and Evaluation Program (ESTEP). The program is intended to connect veteran students studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics—also known as the STEM fields—with internships in U.S. Navy organizations using alternative energy resources.

According to Veterans Services Director Patricia Reily, the purpose of the grant is to assist ONR’s mission to drive Navy and Marine Corps installations to net-zero energy while providing veterans with training, education and opportunities to become part of the future energy workforce.

“There is a big push in the country to get students to study STEM,” said Reily. “There is also a need to have them within the Department of Defense.”

Starting in the spring of 2016 they expect to hire between 15 and 20 interns a year as part of the three-year initiative. The internships vary in length and depend on the needs of the requestor. The grant will also pay for a coordinator who will work with veteran students as a professional development advisor.

“Engineers will develop job descriptions with specific needs and submit them to the ESTEP coordinator,” said Reily. “Then we will target the veteran population within the Cal State University system as well as at other universities in the areas where the projects are located.”

Internships are not exclusive to CSUSM, but the student must be a veteran to qualify. Finalists are interviewed to ensure they are a good fit for the position and follow ups are conducted regularly.

CSUSM student veteran Brian Pierce, an ESTEP management intern, has already gained a valuable experience since his hire in September.

“I am very happy with my experience,” said Pierce, a U.S. Navy veteran. “The construction of a business plan from scratch is the thing I am most proud of so far, especially because I had zero experience doing this before.”

According to Pierce, the idea behind ESTEP is that veterans will be able to take their technical experience and back it up with a good education and then be placed in government positions where they can put their combined knowledge to work.

Reily defines success of the initiative as having the interns hired rapidly after graduation and ultimately working for the Department of Defense or in other STEM careers.

“Our veterans don’t realize how much they really know,” said Reily. “This is a great opportunity for them to build confidence, enhance their resumes and gain mentors that will give them a huge advantage and cutting edge in the workforce.”

Veteran students will learn about ESTEP during orientation and will receive e-mails periodically about internship openings. Students interested in acquiring about internship availability should contact Veterans Professional Development and ESTEP Coordinator Erica Korb at

This work relates to Department of Navy grant N00014-15-1-2525 issued by the Office of Naval Research. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research.