NASA's Alan Ladwig to Tout Community Colleges on May 4, Tell Graduates: You Can Get to The "Job of Your Dreams" From Here

PHILADELPHIA, April 26, 2013—Alan Ladwig, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for Communications and Public Outreach, will give the commencement address at Community College of Philadelphia’s 47th commencement, which starts at 10 a.m. on May 4 in Temple University’s Liacouras Center, Broad Street at Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

Ladwig, a high-ranking NASA official, is himself a community college graduate. After earning an associate’s degree from Elgin Community College in Illinois, he received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Ladwig rose through the ranks at NASA, managing the Teacher in Space and Journalist in Space programs, and assisting Dr. Sally Ride while she worked on a long-range planning document, Leadership and America’s Future in Space. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior manager, he received NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal.

Ladwig, who handles strategic alliances, public engagement and stakeholder relations, says community colleges are playing a crucial role in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce development. “Recent high level reports sponsored by the White House and the National Academies of Science clearly demonstrate that community colleges provide not only general education but also essential technical skills on which economic development and innovation are based,” Ladwig says.
He says he wants graduates to know that their associate’s degrees can help them reach their ultimate career destinations, wherever they choose to go.

A recent NASA workforce survey found that more than one in every 10 NASA employees (11 percent) presently holds a two-year degree. Adam Steltzner, the science whiz who led the NASA team that designed the entry and landing system for the Mars Exploration Rover Curiosity, is one of the high-profile community college alumni. The physics engineer credits his education at College of Marin, near San Francisco, for setting him on a trajectory that led to him, quite literally, to the stars. "I’m a big believer in community colleges," Steltzner says. "It’s not about prestige; it’s not about your SAT scores. It’s from-the-heart education, and I really resonated with that."

In this region, Community College of Philadelphia is providing a critical pipeline of STEM talent for area employers. As of late April, graduates in STEM-related majors make up approximately 38 percent of the Class of 2013, which has 1,934 cndidates for associate’s degrees and academic certificates. The Class of 2013 is on track to become the College’s largest graduating class ever.

This year’s student speaker, Andres Vivas Lopez, 20, is among those students pursuing a math-related career. A Business Administration major, Lopez plans to transfer this fall to Drexel University and pursue a bachelor’s degree in Accounting. His ambition is to become a partner someday at one of the Big Four accounting firms. His mother, Andrea, is a guest student at the College, where she has been taking some Accounting courses.

During the ceremony, Michael A. Rashid, president and CEO of AmeriHealth Caritas, will receive an Honorary Doctoral Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters. The College will recognize his leadership in developing culturally appropriate health care solutions for underserved Americans and his commitment to community and civic affairs that contribute to growth in the region.

The Class of 2013 reflects the breadth of diversity within our student body. Among the students graduating this year are 15 international students, 12 veterans, 10 students from the Philadelphia Police Academy, and six employees from Albert Einstein Medical Center, who took courses at their workplace. There also are five College employees who are earning an associate’s degree.