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IMAGE: Flyer for Lunch and Learn program

Lunch and Learn - NASA SMD Bridge Program

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Lunch and Learn,  a partnership program between the Prince George's County Office of Human Rights, and the Prince George's County Memorial Library System, debuts with special guests from NASA’s SMD Bridge Program, a new initiative to improve diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility within the NASA workforce and the broader U.S. science and engineering communities. What is the Bridge Program, what are its goals, and how does it impact opportunity across the nation?


Click here to watch the live stream - https://www.youtube.com/live/a7gTcljDtuA?si=6QtuxMraM2ix5OEh. 

Dr. Vemitra Alexander, a native of Crawford, Mississippi, graduated with her Ph.D. in 2016 from Mississippi State University in Instructional Systems and Workforce Development. She is currently a Program Specialist for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and NASA Stennis Space Center in Alabama and Mississippi respectively. In her current role, she is the Activity Manager for the Human Exploration Rover Challenge (HERC), the Activity Manager for Minority University Research & Education Project (MUREP) Space Technology Artemis Research (M-STAR), and she is on detail for NASA Headquarters Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Bridge Program working as the program liaison for program evaluation and community engagement.  Prior to joining NASA in 2019, Dr. Alexander was the Director of Educational Outreach and Support Programs in the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University where she was heavily involved with recruiting under-represented minorities (URMs) students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) areas at Mississippi State University since the summer of 2010.  

Dr. Alexander was recently appointed to serve as an advisory committee member for the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Minority Mentorship Program (MMP), the Pre-College Engineering Education (PCEE) Awards Committee Chair and as an executive board member for the Minorities in Engineering Division (MIND) for ASEE. She has been a member at large for PCEE for the past four years, prior to that she served as a K-12 representative for PCEE. Dr. Alexander was elected to serve as a board member for the Catalyst Center for Business and & Entrepreneurship in Huntsville, AL in December of 2021. Dr. Alexander is the Founding Board President for SR1 College Preparatory and STEM Academy in Jackson, MS.  She is a proud member of Huntsville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and recent award recipient for the Group Achievement Award on behalf of the 2023 NASA Agency Honor Awards (AHAs) for exceptional teamwork to design and implement NASA’s first SMD Bridge Program Community Workshop, demonstrating by example the strength and excellence uniquely provided by a diverse and inclusive team. 


Dr. Steven Villanueva Jr. is a program scientist at NASA Headquarters, where he serves as the Deputy Director of the new NASA Science Mission Directorate Bridge Program. Steven is a Mexican-American astronomer, originally from Dallas, TX, and is a first-generation college student. Growing up in a single-parent household with his sisters, he attended college for a year before dropping out to enlist in the US Air Force. After four years as a mechanic, Steven used the GI Bill to go to community college, and then earned a BS in Physics from Texas A&M University, where he began a career building telescopes. While earning a PhD in Astronomy from The Ohio State University, Steven became an exoplanet hunter as well. Steven worked two post-doctoral research positions, one at MIT and then one at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, both working on the NASA TESS exoplanet mission, before moving to NASA HQ. During this time, Steven has been active in creating opportunities for those coming from marginalized communities, including first-generation students, low-income students, and under-represented minorities. Steven is a proud member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and the National Society of Hispanic Physicists (NSHP). Steven now brings all of his experiences to the NASA SMD Bridge Program, where he joins a team of individuals working to create opportunities at NASA for the professors, students, and researchers, who have historically been overlooked at NASA.