Updated: January 29, 2014 at 8:28 am
The first local pairing between the technology industry and higher education started almost half a century ago. Pueblo native David Packard told state officials if they started a university in Colorado Springs with an emphasis on engineering and business, his company, Hewlett-Packard, would robustly support it.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs opened in 1965.
A second blissful marriage was announced Tuesday.
Defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp., an aerospace and cyber security powerhouse with 1,000 employees in Colorado Springs and 2,200 statewide, has selected UCCS as one of 53 "core university partners."
In addition to stepped up internship and job opportunities with the company, UCCS students in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences also will be privy to expanded research and development, a scholarship pool, an on-campus speaker series, programs for minorities, seminars and career fairs.
"The DNA of this campus has been connections to partners," Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said. "To say that I'm excited about this is an understatement - I am more than pleased at what we will be able to accomplish."
All of the new offerings will be centered on the fields of science, technology, engineering and math or STEM, focuses that are sorely needed, said Veronica Nelson, campus relations manager for Northrop Grumman.
"There's a growing shortage of science-based talent in the workplace and at universities," she said. "It's a serious problem for our nation that could leave America unable to sustain its leadership position."
Northrop Grumman has funded STEM programs from preschool through the collegiate level for years, and the new university partnership initiative will help expand that commitment, Nelson said.
"We will develop strategies and programs that will help attract, engage, excite and retain your talented students," she told UCCS officials.
Northrop Grumman will put college students and graduates to work to help advance such technologies as the James Webb Space Telescope, said retired Brig. Gen. Russ Anarde, Northrop Grumman's lead executive for Colorado.
"Today's announcement is about tomorrow, to push the envelope of space science and monitoring technology and to support the country's defense," he said.
The telescope is being developed by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been in orbit since 1990. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor on the project.
"It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built and has a 2018 planned launch, to place it in orbital position 1 million miles from Earth," Anarde said. "It will be almost as large as a tennis court, and it requires the best and the brightest STEM workforce."
The company evaluated 140 universities across the nation for its partnership program, Nelson said, and chose UCCS because of its national rankings, research opportunities, a high amount (20 percent) of females in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and curriculum that teaches skills in synch with Northrop Grumman's strategic plan.
Anarde said his company has not yet determined how much money it will spend on the budding relationship with UCCS.
Austin Ventura, a 25-year-old Colorado Springs resident who's finishing his master's degree in mechanical engineering at UCCS, has been an intern at Northrop Grumman since last June. He calls the partnership "encouraging" for his generation.
"I see a lot of talent, and now, it sounds like there will be a lot of opportunities for students," he said. "Working there has given me a way to apply my STEM interest in a way that I enjoy."