Eric Stoltz, a NASA employee, visited UCC on Jan. 15, giving students and faculty a message of solidarity as well as a unique look into the opportunities available for those interested in a career with the space agency.

Originally from Evergreen Valley Community College in San Jose, California, Stead said he felt the impact of the events following Oct. 1 through friends and family who lived in the region.

space x
Photo provided by NASA
Space-X spacecraft is designed to take humans to space.

“I wanted to say hi to everybody. I was really touched,” Stead said.

Stead works for the Education Department of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida while he continues his studies in communication at Seminole State College.

“We teach grade-school students about STEM fields and get them inspired. And it’s cool; you’ll usually see that spark” Stead said.

He said one of his own sparks of inspiration came when Janice E. Voss, an American engineer and astronaut who flew in five space missions, visited his high-school.

Part of Stead’s work today involves organizing events at the Kennedy Center where young people get to meet and listen to veteran astronauts speak about their experiences and careers.

Students and staff who gathered in TECH 11 and SCI 10 to talk with Stead had the opportunity to hear stories and anecdotes of daily life at NASA including topics ranging from the first zero-gravity espresso machine sent to space to watching, from a friend’s rooftop, the recent successful SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster landing.

For college students interested in getting involved with NASA, Stead suggests an opportunity called a NASA Social where 50 individuals (one from each state) are selected to attend a special event, such as a launch, or to visit a facility. Attendees get full access to normally restricted locations as well as interaction with NASA personnel, Stead explained, and the socials were what first got him interested in working at the space agency.

“I met the NASA administrator, Charlie Bolden, at that NASA Social, so I literally met the boss of NASA before I actually worked there,” Stead said. “Those are a ton of fun and they’re totally rewarding. I met a lot of friends from all over the country.”

eric stead portrait
Provided by Jacob Lebel The Mainstream
Eric Stoltz speaks about opportunities for students.

These periodic events are posted on NASA’s social media feeds, and anyone who is active and productive on their social media accounts can apply.

Michael Boltz, an Engineering major, attended the discussion. “I really enjoyed him coming to campus and discussing what opportunities are available to somebody from similar situations, at such an awesome agency as NASA,” said Boltz.

The campus visit came after Eric posted a photo of himself on his Facebook page wearing an I am UCC shirt at NASA. Members of the UCC online community soon began to contact him.

“I replied and said ‘If you ever find yourself in Roseburg, we’d love to see you on campus, we’d love to show you around,’” said John Blackwood, an associate professor in Computer Information Systems, who organized the visit.

Blackwood said he has been trying to promote the theme of “reach for the stars” in his CIS classes and hopes to invite Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, to visit UCC in the future.

“I think it showed our students that love is big. That there’s a lot going on outside the UCC campus,” Blackwood said regarding Stead’s visit here. “And I think it made the students feel connected to something bigger than themselves.”

Revised  Feb 3, 2016- changed name Eric Stold to Eric Stoltz.