3 Outstanding Women At N.C. A&T University Make History After Securing Coveted Astronaut Scholarship

by Gee NY

Three students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T) have achieved a significant milestone by being chosen as 2023 Astronaut Scholars.

This feat marks a historic moment for the university and the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Kristi Barnes, Maya Odom, and Breyana Robinson have been named recipients of the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship, awarded annually to outstanding undergraduate students pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degrees.

Their selection makes N.C. A&T the first HBCU to secure more than one Astronaut Scholarship in a single application cycle.

Each of the scholars will receive up to $15,000 to support their educational expenses and will have the opportunity for lifelong engagement with prominent figures in the STEM field, including astronauts, researchers, and innovators.

They will also present their research at a technical conference during the ASF Innovator’s Week & Gala in Orlando, Florida.

The significance of this achievement was underscored by a special campus presentation and lecture, where astronaut and retired Air Force Col. Frederick Drew Gregory praised the scholars for their academic excellence and dedication to STEM education.

“This recognition is a testament to the talent and determination of our students,” said Tonya Smith-Jackson, Ph.D., N.C. A&T’s provost and executive vice chancellor of Academic Affairs. “Kristi, Maya, and Breyana’s accomplishments reflect the university’s commitment to excellence and diversity in STEM fields.”

The road to this achievement was paved by Lenovo, whose support enabled N.C. A&T to secure a second scholarship slot, making history as the first HBCU to have multiple Astronaut Scholarship opportunities in one application cycle.

The scholarship was further bolstered by the HBCU Astronaut Group, which facilitated the addition of a third scholarship slot based on the outstanding merit of A&T’s applicants.

Expressing her pride in the scholars’ accomplishments, Honors College Dean Margaret Kanipes said:

“Their remarkable achievements exemplify the boundless potential of all Aggies, inspiring us all to reach for the stars.”

The three scholars, Kristi Barnes, Maya Odom, and Breyana Robinson, each bring a unique perspective and passion to their fields of study. Barnes, a chemical engineering major, aspires to tackle health disparities in minority communities.

Odom, studying computer engineering, aims to bridge the gap in access to technology and resources. Robinson, specializing in laboratory animal science, is committed to increasing diversity in STEM research.

Their selection as Astronaut Scholars honors their individual achievements and also highlights N.C. A&T’s commitment to fostering excellence and diversity in STEM education.

“I am honored to work with astounding Aggies such as Kristi, Maya, and Breyana,” said Alsace-Lorraine Gallop, A&T’s national scholarships and fellowships coordinator. “They have dedicated themselves not only to excellence in STEM innovation but have also made notable contributions to our campus and community.”

With their selection, Barnes, Odom, and Robinson join a prestigious cohort of scholars poised to make significant contributions to the fields of science and technology.

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