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Defense Department seeks diverse workforce in ASU recruitment visit

'Taking the Pentagon to the People' event to highlight research, civilian career opportunities


Aerial view of the U.S. Pentagon.
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September 08, 2023

Faculty and students will get a chance to hear about research and career opportunities at the U.S. Department of Defense this week as Arizona State University hosts “Taking the Pentagon to the People.”

The event is part of an initiative to expose faculty and students at minority-serving institutions to business opportunities and careers in the DoD. Students can learn about internships, scholarships, direct hiring programs and how to navigate DoD opportunities. Faculty can hear about research and grant programs, partnerships with small businesses and leave and sabbatical programs.

ASU is hosting the Pentagon recruitment event thanks to its designation last year by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, which means that the university has an enrollment of Hispanic undergraduate students that is at least 25% of the overall student body.

Chris Howard, executive vice president and chief operating officer of ASU, said that size and depth of talent at the university is a huge benefit for recruitment.

“The Pentagon, like other government organizations, is thinking about inclusive excellence and making sure that a broad demographic of people is exposed to its opportunities,” he said.

“It’s a big workforce, one of the largest in the U.S., and they launched this program to that end.”

Initially, the Pentagon focused on HBCUs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and then expanded to Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

Howard said that ASU’s total population of Black students, nearly 8,000 in person and online, would make it a top 10 HBCU by size.

Nadya Bliss, executive director of the Global Security Initiative at ASU, said she has worked with the Department of Defense for her entire two-decade career.

“The big thing that is important to learn about is that the DoD is a mission-focused agency,” she said.

“So the focus is to protect U.S. interests, whether it’s making sure we are advancing competitively on the global stage in regards to science and technology or training the next generation of civilian and military employees.

“A lot of times, students and faculty have a little bit of a misconception about what the DoD works on, so to have the Pentagon folks come out and speak directly to the people about the breadth of projects available is absolutely wonderful.”

Bliss said that opportunities to work on national security include STEM fields and more.

“The DoD has some of the most interesting problems and topic areas — things like advanced materials, biology, advanced computing, artificial intelligence, communication systems, humanities and social sciences,” she said.

“There’s a significant focus in the DoD that both the military and civilian workforce should represent the country, so this is a great opportunity for us as a minority-serving institution to engage with the department because it’s really important to have perspectives from all walks of life and degree backgrounds as well.”

Howard said the goal is to continue the relationship with the Department of Defense.

“The vision is to see us as a continuing partner at the enterprise level,” he said.

“Programs like this should not be one-offs, they should be ongoing partnerships. We can provide feedback to make it better, and they see us as a great source of talent.”

So far, more than 900 students have signed up to participate.

The “Taking the Pentagon to the People” schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, Sept. 12

  • 1 to 4 p.m. – Student recruitment event, La Sala Ballroom on the West campus.

Wednesday, Sept. 13 (All-day conference to take place at the Student Pavilion on the Tempe campus.)

  • 9 to 10:30 a.m. – Opening remarks.
  • 10:35 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. – Student summit and networking lunch, including a session on interviewing and elevator pitches. (The student summit will also include a panel discussion at 10:25 a.m. featuring a Pentagon official who specializes in recruiting students with disabilities, and two others who will discuss scholarship programs.)
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Faculty and staff lunch-and-learn session.
  • 2:15 to 5:30 p.m. – U.S. Department of Defense recruiters tabling event, Student Pavilion lobby.

Register for the event here.

Top image courtesy iStock

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