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On the Importance of STEM Education to the Office of Naval Research

Congress designated May as National Military Appreciation Month based on the simple idea that our citizens should have the opportunity to publicly recognize the sacrifices and successes of American service members, past and present. Supporting military families by providing their children with the best possible educational opportunities is an important part of our mission at NMSI. During the month, we are highlighting perspectives of educators, active and retired service members and members of military families on the intersection of military life and STEM education. Today, we hear from Dr. Michael M. Simpson, Director of Education and Workforce at the Office of Naval Research, which has provided support for NMSI's College Readiness Program for Military Families at partner schools in Mississippi and Virginia.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) discovers, develops and delivers innovative technology for the future naval force.  To do this, ONR needs people educated in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)—complemented by disciplined creativity—to promote solutions to new problems that will require thinking “outside the box.”
My own educational background began in the life sciences (which include biology and other natural sciences, and chemistry and other physical sciences), complemented by education in engineering and public policy.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to apply my STEM education in public-sector work on Capitol Hill and in ONR, in private-sector companies and in promoting STEM education every place possible.
ONR strives for an environment alive with equal opportunity.  The command has education and outreach activities to inspire, engage and educate K-12 students through expos, fairs and classroom and extracurricular events.  ONR also has internships and professional development opportunities for people in the broad STEM community.  And in all of ONR’s efforts, there is a real focus to help people become aware of and participate in all levels of STEM work, from the most junior to the most experienced. The students we support and encourage in STEM are truly among America’s best and brightest.
More than 60 Nobel laureates since 1952 have been sponsored by ONR for their work. In my own background, I had the opportunity to be in Dr. Melvin Calvin’s last organic chemistry class at the University of California-Berkley. Dr. Calvin’s Nobel-prize-winning research on how plants convert sunlight into energy was sponsored by ONR. 
ONR creates and promotes STEM education, outreach and workforce activities to help ensure that we can discover people with the full breadth and depth of STEM capabilities and disciplined creativity. Together, we will deliver the science, technology, engineering and mathematics needed by the Department of the Navy.
 It’s important to remember that it’s not just the Navy that benefits from STEM education.  The greatness of our very nation and our economic well-being owe much to the value we Americans have traditionally placed on the STEM disciplines.  To ensure our Navy, and nation, thrive in the future, we will need young men and women with strong STEM backgrounds.  ONR’s investments in STEM education benefit us all.  And that’s why I encourage all of us to support and promote STEM education.