SEP 21, 2023
DCTC Scholars Meet DoD Leaders in Virtual Kickoff
The inaugural scholar cohort of the Defense Civilian Training Corps (DCTC) met with senior officials in the Department of Defense (DoD) and other distinguished guests during a virtual kickoff of the pilot program on September 7. Scholars from all four pilot universities – Purdue University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the University of Arizona, and Virginia Tech – were introduced to each other and engaged in a Q&A session with the officials who offered insight and inspiration on building careers in the civilian service.
The Acquisition Innovation Research Center (AIRC) is guiding the DCTC pilot. Congress mandated DCTC as a talent development program that provides classroom curriculum and hands-on, active learning, along with project-based summer internships, to prepare scholars to join the defense acquisition workforce. The 90 DCTC scholars were competitively selected from among 362 applicants and represent 42 majors. AIRC designed the curriculum to develop scholars from diverse academic disciplines into collaborative, multi-functional teams, to prepare them for the environment they will encounter in DoD organizations.
Mr. Mark Krzysko served as master of ceremonies through his role as Principal Deputy Director, Enterprise Information, Acquisition Data and Analytics in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. He noted that DCTC was planned to begin in 2024 but the efforts of the universities, scholars, and AIRC enabled the 2023 launch—addressing the DoD’s priority to fill technology gaps and partner with academic institutions to build the workforce of the future.
“The department has huge demands for creating a future workforce,” Krzysko said. “DCTC is a key component of that. For the scholars in the audience, [y]ou’ve been selected because of your talents, skills and desire for public service supporting national security. This program is designed to build those critical skills necessary for you to make a difference and have a successful career in the department.”
Dr. William LaPlante, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, spoke next and congratulated the scholars on being the first cohort of a program that has much positive attention across the department. He noted they will serve a critical role as ambassadors for the program.
The longest-serving administrator in NASA history, Mr. Dan Goldin, also addressed the DCTC scholars and began by noting that the United States is at a defining moment. He shared his personal story of having missed the chance to serve in uniform due to a failed eye exam. Instead, after college he joined NASA’s Glenn Research Center working on electric propulsion systems and described it as the most important educational experience of his life. He encouraged the scholars to take advantage of the many mentoring opportunities they will receive working within the DoD.
In addition to the invited speakers, the virtual kickoff allowed DCTC scholars to engage with notable individuals who hosted four breakout rooms: Ms. Lisa P. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Product Support; Mr. Brynt Parmeter, Chief Talent Management Officer in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel & Readiness); Dr. Sandra Hobson, Deputy Director, Strategic Initiatives, Policy and Emerging Technologies in the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation; and retired Navy Captain William Shepherd, a senior researcher with the Systems Engineering Research Center.
Each pilot university selected a scholar to address the attendees. The scholars represented the wide range of academic majors participating in DCTC, including digital technology, political science, philosophy, law, and business management. Each cited a unique DCTC slogan, such as Purdue’s Giant leaps for national defense, to distinguish their university, but also noted shared aspirations of innovative thinking, collaboration, academic excellence, and service.
The DCTC scholars’ enthusiasm was evident throughout the event. The scholars who spoke recognized civilian service as a valuable career journey that presents opportunity for responsibility and growth. North Carolina A&T’s speaker, Aliyah Terry, a computer engineering major with a minor in supply chain management, affirmed “as a united and dedicated community, we are poised to embark on this mission of innovation and excellence in defense.” Andrew Pongrátz, a philosophy and economics major who spoke for the University of Arizona, expressed his cohort’s pride to participate in “this unique opportunity to innovate across academic disciplines in order to improve and protect our national security while also inspiring more students to answer the call to public service.”