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Nearly 20 space professionals from around the world convened in Athens, Ohio, last week to coordinate International Space University’s (ISU) 2015 Space Studies Program (SSP15), which will be hosted by Ohio University June 8–Aug. 7.
SSP15 is an intense nine‐week program that offers participants a unique and comprehensive professional development experience covering all aspects of space programs and enterprises. Featuring core lectures, departmental activities and team projects that give participants international, interdisciplinary and intercultural perspectives on current space topics, the program hosts professionals from all disciplines as well as post-graduate university students.
Led by SSP15 Director John Connolly, who most recently served as NASA's Chief Exploration Scientist, experts in engineering, science, law, business and the humanities from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Spain and the U.S. who will serve as department chairs gathered for the annual curriculum planning meeting (CPM) to plan the academic structure of the program, choose OHIO faculty to participate, meet with SSP15 partner NASA Glenn Research Center and tour OHIO facilities.
“As the faculty leaders of next year’s SSP15 met here on the Athens campus, I was privileged to observe most of their extensive planning for the curricular schedule and content,” Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin said. “It’s clear to me that ISU plans to make this this best ever SSP, in terms of distinguished guests, the involvement of Ohio University faculty and students, and the rich resources of the State of Ohio – just as all of us at Ohio University are committed to providing the best possible venue for their intensive program.”
According to Connolly, the CPM went off without a hitch.
“The key is we picked faculty who have a lot of experience with ISU,” Connolly said. “Our past participants have told us is that they want faculty members with real experience in the space sector, so we purposely chose faculty members from within the ISU community who have significant experience working in space applications, humanities, engineering, science, or business.”
ISU alumna Dr. Su-Yin Tan, a University of Waterloo, Canada, lecturer who studies remote sensing and geographic information systems, echoed Connolly’s positive outlook.
“We’re all in really good shape because the host has been extremely accommodating,” said Tan, who will serve as SSP15’s core lecture series chair and space applications department chair and who also directs Waterloo’s Applied Geomatics Research Laboratory. “All the classrooms, all the facilities, the dining hall and the dormitories are all state of art, and that makes our job a lot easier. We’ve had a really productive couple of days.”
The CPM enabled ISU faculty and staff to familiarize themselves with the community as well. Eric Dahlstrom, SSP15 physical sciences department chair, was impressed by what he called the tight connection between the university and the town.
“For many of the ISU participants, coming from 30 countries, this will be their first visit to the U.S.,” said Dahlstrom, who is president of California-based International Space Consultants. “Spending nine weeks in Athens will be a great experience and introduction to the U.S. and allow them to see a real community.”
Connolly thinks OHIO and the Athens area’s idyllic setting, balanced by easy access to the region’s many advanced resources, will mesh well with the program’s design and objectives.
“We have access to NASA Glenn up in Cleveland, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton and Green Bank Radio Observatory in West Virginia,” Connolly said. “So even though we’re in Appalchian Ohio – in a vibrant college town set in beautiful countryside – we’re also within a few hours’ drive of some amazing places, and I think the combination of all that is very appealing to everyone.”
While SSP15 participants will study academic subjects ranging from human performance in space to policy, economics, and law, the program’s value extends beyond the classroom, according to Tan.
“It’s not just about what you see and learn in the program, but also all the connections you make with the people you get to know – people from all over the world,” she said. “It really opens your mind and exposes you to different things that you’re not familiar with, and that’s how you learn. So it provides life experiences, not just on the academic side, and it really makes you come out as a new, more-well-rounded person.”