Four Villanova University Engineering undergraduates—an unprecedented number from one school—were among 39 students nationwide selected to participate in the 25th annual Citizens for Space Exploration (CSE) trip to Washington, D.C. CSE is a multi-state grassroots NASA advocacy group that meets with members of Congress to inform and educate them about the importance of a robust space exploration program and a fully-funded NASA budget. On May 24–May 26, 2016, 89 travelers from 23 states visited 407 congressional offices to share both an update on NASA’s plans for the future, as well as their personal passion for spaceflight.
This is the fourth year that Villanova Mechanical Engineering students have participated in CSE, but the first time that multiple ME students have made the trip. With the support and encouragement of alumnus Tom Sanzone ’68 EE—a former employee at NASA, long-time CSE advocate and passionate Villanovan—Don Pontrelli ’18, Emily Dailey ’18, Dominick Colao ’19 and Hannah Drazan ’19 were selected to participate in what they found to be a memorable and rewarding experience. Sanzone adds, “All four say they look forward to returning next year.”
Hannah Drazan took the time to share her reflections on the CSE trip:
Citizens for Space Exploration is an organization committed to NASA. It is a diverse group comprised of everyday citizens, businessmen and women, college students, and people working directly with NASA. While the variations of the type of people that this organization attracts is great, the underlying love and appreciation of space exploration is universal. Our mission was quite simple, talk to congressmen and women about how space exploration is important to us, and advocate for a continuation of the funding NASA gets.
My approach as an undergraduate aspiring mechanical engineer was one that focused on how space exploration inspired me to pursue the career path that I am. The response I got from congressmen and their staff members was always positive. Inquiries came with a desire to understand rather than refute. The passion I exuded about space and the significance NASA has had on me was contagious. Feeling the energy of the room rise as I divulged my love of general relativity was incredible; seeing the politicians genuinely excited about all that is to come in the field I love so much reignited the flame of passion inside of me. It was truly an experience of a lifetime and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a voice for NASA and an advocate for its future.
Participation in the CSE experience is just one example of Villanova students’ growing interest in space exploration and the aerospace industry in general. In the spring 2016 issue of the Villanova Engineering Update (VEU)—available in early June—“Villanova Engineers Shoot for the Stars” details the College’s long and storied history with NASA, as well as the aspiring faces of its future. Also, in response to demand, in fall 2016, the College will begin offering a minor in Aerospace Engineering.