NNSA expands program to recruit minority students

The Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program operates as a pipeline from minority serving institutions into the Energy Department.

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The Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program (MSIPP) has been around for a few years now and is steadily expanding. The program, nested within the National Nuclear Security Administration, operates as a pipeline for students at minority serving institutions (MSIs) into the Energy Department.

“What we do with the program is align investments with university capacity and their workforce development programs to our NNSA mission in hopes that we will have students transition into our pipeline,” said program manager David Canty on Federal Drive with Tom Temin. 

The program has four general topic areas: advanced manufacturing, energy systems, cybersecurity and overall nuclear engineering and security.

MSIs are not generally known for their nuclear security programs, but the initiative aims to change that.

“We want to focus on the untapped expertise at MSIs … over the years we’ve really got in some really great students from these schools and we would like to continue to expand the program and continue to have more MSIs that have nuclear security enterprise related programs at their institutions,” Canty said.

The NNSA or other DoE components are not the only areas where students will find experience. The students are also available to work and learn alongside partner agencies. “One of our major missions is the support of the Navy, so definitely the students will be available,” Canty said.

Initially the program was only awarding to individual schools — but once the program began deploying a consortia-based approach to have multiple institutions partner together, they began to see even greater success. Schools with greater capacities working alongside others that don’t have as many resources helps ultimately build up under-served programs.

“With the new expansion we have 38 MSIs that we currently support, and that is across historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, and predominantly Hispanic serving institutions,” Canty said.

So far, over 530 students have participated in different internships at various sites, which have in turn led to dozens of permanent positions. Another popular option after students complete internships is continuing within the NNSA through their graduate fellowship program, which also has led to many permanent positions, or “conversions” as the program calls them.

On an even grander scale, the program also fits into a larger recruitment effort as about 40% of the nuclear security enterprise workforce are eligible to retire over the next five years, according to Canty.

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