10:24 AM

STEM grant set business student on the path to NASA

When Katherine Schultz was a child growing up in the Clear Lake area, she loved taking trips to Space Center Houston because everything about space exploration fascinated her. But when she enrolled at University of Houston-Clear Lake and became a double-major finance and accounting student, she said she took NASA off her list of potential places to work.

"I didn't even bother looking into it," she said. "You don't think of accounting and finance when you think of NASA. You think of things like engineering and physics, so even though I loved everything about NASA, I thought, that there's no opportunities there for me."

She found out that with the support of the Pathways to STEM grant, she saw plenty of potential for a career path at NASA — even as a business major.

"My roommate is a contractor for Jacobs, and she saw my NASA posters in my room," Schultz said. "She told me they have internships for accounting students, which surprised me. I saw the application process for interns was going to open the next week."

Her strong advice to others is to apply immediately, because there is a cap as to how many applications they will take. "They will stop looking at applications after they reach a certain number, so I stayed up and sent in my application right after midnight the day the application opened so I could be at the top of the list."

She learned that NASA offers all kinds of internships to students in nearly all fields, including human resources, anthropology, sociology, public relations, and psychology.

"NASA hires interns in nearly all areas. Just about any major you can think of, they are hiring interns," she said. "I also found out that NASA looks for applicants who have done leadership work in student organizations. The best way to get that experience is to join a student org and become an officer. That's what I did."

Schultz began her third internship at NASA at the end of January, working in procurement. "I'm training to be a contract specialist for the human health and performance directorate," she said. "There are so many regulations and laws to learn about. It's about buying and selling and negotiating contracts with the government. There's so much to learn."

Internships, she said, were 14-16 weeks and it's fully paid. "It's awesome," she said. "I get a full-time salary and health insurance, and all the perks of a full-time employee."

She said she planned to do more internships and hoped to get a job at NASA upon her graduation in December with her bachelor of science in accounting and finance.

"Even if you don't think NASA is for you, I'd recommend you go outside your comfort zone," she said. "Many of us find we like being inside our bubble and we are scared of being rejected, but you can't get offers unless you apply. I would never have gotten this internship if I'd stayed in my bubble. It's better to try than not try. Even if you think you'll be rejected, take the initiative and apply."

For more information about UHCL's Pathways to STEM grant program, go online.