Kenai Peninsula College is honored to announce that Dr. Adena Loston, NASA associate administrator for education, will visit several venues around the peninsula, including a presentation at 6 p.m. Thursday in the student commons area at the KPC campus in Soldotna.
Loston will discuss NASA's goal of inspiring current and future generations who may want to be a part of space exploration to focus on mathematics, science and engineering. Her visit to the peninsula is being sponsored by KPC and the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska.
Loston also will participate in a live radio panel discussion from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. today at the Challenger Center. The panel discussion, sponsored by KPC, will be featured as a special edition of KSRM-FM radio's "Life on the Kenai Live," with local moderator Merrill Sikorski. In addition to Loston, James Chapman, University of Alaska Anchorage provost, Donna Peterson, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District superintendent, Emma Walton, Challenger Center board president and education representatives from both Seward and Homer will be part of the panel. The public is encouraged to attend and participate in the discussion, which will center on "The Future Vision of Education."
Loston is based at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and has held her position since October 2002. She is responsible for structuring NASA's education enterprise and guiding efforts to organize and enhance the agency's education programs.
Loston brings to her position more than 30 years of experience in higher education. Before taking on her current role with NASA, she served as president of San Jacinto College South in Houston for five years. Her prior positions include CEO for the El Paso County Community College District; dean of professional programs and vocational education at Santa Monica College in California; and supervisor of the office occupations programs at Houston Community College.
Loston also has vast teaching experience including time spent at Georgia State University, Arkansas State Univer-sity, Houston Community College, University of Houston-Downtown and Texas Southern University.
KPC Director Gary Turner, a current member of the Challenger Center's board of directors, has facilitated Loston's first visit to Alaska. Turner formerly held the position of program manager of public affairs at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Hunts-ville, Ala. He continues to have a special interest in NASA's educational programs and has worked diligently to make Loston's visit a reality.
It is not a coincidence that Loston's visit coincides with this week's "touch-down" of Starship 2040, NASA's traveling space transportation exhibit at the Challenger Center. While with NASA, Turner helped put together this futuristic glimpse into what NASA's vision of human space flight might be 40 years from now.
"Passengers" can walk through control, passenger and engineering compartments while audio effects such as engine noises, computer and crew voices add to the realism of the experience. Passengers also can talk with NASA experts. The exhibit, housed in a 48-foot tractor trailer rig, has traveled throughout Southcentral Alaska, already landing at the Alaska State Fair and Mat-Su College, with the final mission scheduled for the Children's Imaginarium in Anchorage next week.
"To inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can" is the official NASA education program mission. The Starship 2040 exhibit is designed to do just that.
The Starship shows a plausible, practical result of NASA's goal to extend the duration and boundaries of human space flight to open up new opportunities for exploration and discovery. Don't miss this special opportunity to visit an example of what the future may hold.
The Challenger Learning Center of Alaska, ConocoPhillips, Avis and KPC are sponsoring the Starship 2040 visit to the peninsula. Admission to the exhibit is free, and it is handicapped accessible. The exhibit will host many school groups while docked in Kenai, but also is open to the public during certain hours. For more information about the exhibit, contact Sharon Gherman, executive director of Challenger Center, at 283-1581.
This column is provided by Suzie Kendrick, community relations coordinator at Kenai Peninsula College.
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