Diara Lawrence
Diara Lawrence, a mechanical engineer major at Tuskegee University, and Chad Marshall, chief of personnel management at the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center, pose for a photo while shaking hands at the 2023 Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference, Feb. 9-11, 2023, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland. (U.S. Army photo by Mayah Robinson) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center’s Science Technology Engineering and Math Student Employment Program is a great opportunity for college students.

Diara Lawrence, a sophomore mechanical engineer major at Tuskegee University, was offered an internship in SSEP after an encounter at the Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference in 2023.

“BEYA had a career fair, and I walked around for a little bit,” Lawrence said. “There was a big Army booth with different organizations inside of it on half of the area. So, I just went over and ended up talking to a few people. And then I came upon the person who became my boss, Corry Cox.”

Lawrence talked with Cox, Director of Research and Technology, Technical Center, about her schoolwork and her plans for the summer. She continued visiting other booths at the conference and then ran into Cox and Chad Marshall, chief, Personnel Management, Technical Center, a short time later.

“(They) walked up to me and said, ‘We were talking, and we really would like to offer you a position for the summer,’” Lawrence said.

SSEP allows for direct hire of students pursuing Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology-accredited science, technology, engineering and math degrees. Students can be non-competitively hired into SSEP by submitting their resume through the Technical Center webpage or at a publicly announced recruiting event such as the BEYA career fair.

She said being able to receive a position on the spot was amazing.

“I thought it was really cool that I made an impression,” she said.

Beyond non-competitive direct hire into the program, SSEP interns may receive relocation incentives or bonuses each time they return to duty at the Technical Center, allowing the center to expand recruitment outside of the local commuting area to top universities throughout the state and nation. Tuition assistance is also available to SSEP interns. Upon graduation, SSEP interns can be noncompetitively converted to career-ladder positions within the Technical Center.

During her internship, Lawrence worked on a research project titled “An Examination of the Best Methods for the USASMDC Technical Center to Onboard and Integrate New Employees.”

“I looked at how the Technical Center Directorate onboarded and integrated new employees in the midst of a hybrid work environment,” Lawrence said. “That was composed of me sitting down and interviewing different people throughout the Technical Center, as well as directors and managers, about what their experience was like. I paired that with online research about methods that other organizations used to onboard and integrate their employees as well.

“Talking to different people while I was doing my interviews, I think, gave me a little bit of insight into some of the roles at SMDC and a little bit of what they do.”

Lawrence enjoyed her time at USASMDC, she said.

“I think, for me, a big part of the organization was the people there,” Lawrence said. “There was a lot of nerves going into it, but, honestly, the people there were really amazing. The person who was my HR person, Ms. Sherry Sanders, was really amazing. She really made it a wonderful experience for me. Corry, who was my boss, he was really amazing, too.”

For other interns, Lawrence advised them to be open to their projects and be vocal.

“If you’re getting a project that you would like to modify or maybe you want to do something on top of that, don’t be scared to say that because, more than likely, whoever you’re under, they’ll be willing to work with you to make sure while you’re there that you’re getting a good experience out of it and getting something you really need,” Lawrence said.

If you are interested in applying for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center’s Science Technology Engineering and Math Student Employment Program, please go to https://www.smdc.army.mil/Portals/38/Documents/TC/DHA_Public_Notice-TC_SSEP_07-2023.pdf