by Jennifer McCormack, Marketing Coordinator, Yavapai College
Lori McDonald has been content for years to work in a variety of different professions while investigating careers that were a better fit for her interests and intellect.
But the 42-year-old Yavapai College (YC) student is ready to let her wandering spirit rest to focus on finishing something she started. That something is an aerospace engineering degree, now that she has been invited to participate in NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) Project. The program’s aim is attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines critical to NASA’s future missions.
“I gave up on engineering when it seemed like the doors were closed,” McDonald said, citing mounting college debt.
A hairstylist and masseuse with offices in Jerome and Sedona, McDonald’s enduring curiosity and drive to learn drew her to YC, where she has studied a variety of subjects since 2006. She learned about the NASA program last spring and completed a battery of writing and other assignments initially.
“My eyes were crossed, but everything was so interesting,” she said. “When something like that ignites you, you grab onto it.”
After completing the preparatory work, McDonald was invited to continue learning at a NASA research site. She traveled to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Southern California in April to spend four days working with a team to build and test a remote-operated vehicle (ROV) and form a fictional company interested in Mars exploration.
McDonald is optimistic about her chances of working in aerospace.
“How high can this go?” she asked rhetorically. “No matter what, I’m not going to get bored. And, no matter what, the end of this opportunity will be life-changing.”