Chukwunyere Chosen as N.C. A&T’s First Astronaut Scholar Since 2008

By Alexander Saunders / 09/10/2020 College of Engineering

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Sept. 10, 2020) – Oluchi Chukwunyere, a senior computer science student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, has been selected as a 2020 Astronaut Scholar, becoming the university’s first recipient since 2008.

Chukwunyere, of Raleigh, North Carolina, will receive up to $15,000 for eligible educational expenses in addition to mentoring from accomplished STEM leaders. She is one of 56 scholars from 41 universities chosen for the honor this year.

Fourteen people from A&T, including Chukwunyere, have received the Astronaut Scholarship 16 times since 1994. The scholarship, created in 1984 by the surviving Mercury 7 astronauts, is administered by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) and provides more than 50 scholarships annually to the most academically accomplished college sophomore and junior students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who are intent on pursuing research or advancing their fields upon graduation.

“Oluchi has embraced the challenge of leveraging computer science to bring joy and hope to many. She is dedicated to using her gifts and abilities to help others,” said Kelvin Bryant, Ph.D., assistant professor in the computer science department. “My feeling is that this sort of motivation has led her to go above and beyond in achieving success both in the classroom and her personal life.”

Chukwunyere also received the 2019-20 ETS Presidential Scholarship for HBCU Students and was selected as a 2020 White House HBCU Competitiveness Scholar.

“Oluchi’s mentorship of underclassmen and leadership in hackathon competitions highlight her demonstrated commitment to serve others in the essence of Aggie Pride,” said Margaret Kanipes, Ph.D., A&T Honors Program director. “Oluchi’s national recognition for externally-funded extraordinary opportunities is due in part to her willingness to apply and to invest significant effort in crafting a compelling personal narrative.”

As president emeritus of the Association of Computing Machinery campus chapter and as a mentor to many underclassmen in the computer science department, Chukwunyere continues to share tools she wishes she had when she first started her undergraduate journey.

“I plan on changing the way engineers design to make products more accessible to those with various disabilities and social standing,” said Chukwunyere. “Changing the way the world designs technical products is a huge task, but I have dreams of doing so. I believe joining these prestigious ranks of Astronaut Scholars and being able to collaborate, soak in knowledge, and engage will help provide the skills required to propel my career to tackle issues on the global level.”

The 2019-20 academic year marked A&T’s return to ASF’s nominating schools list. Astronaut Bernard A. Harris Jr., M.D., MBA, the first Black person to conduct a spacewalk, provided the sponsorship that enabled A&T to rejoin ASF’s Astronaut Scholarship nominating list alongside Morgan State University. A&T and Morgan State are the only two HBCUs that are ASF nominating institutions.

Chukwunyere and Diamond Mangrum, a senior applied mathematics and bioengineering student, were endorsed to apply at the national level through N.C. A&T Extraordinary Opportunities in spring 2020 after review by the university’s 2019-20 Astronaut Scholarship campus selection committee. Members included Maranda McBride Ph.D., chair and A&T’s 2002 Astronaut Scholar; Bryant; Shea Burns, Ph.D.; Gregory Goins, Ph.D.; Daniel Limbrick, Ph.D.; and Angela White, Ph.D.

Recruitment is under way for STEM sophomores and juniors eligible for the 2021 Astronaut Scholarship. The campus application deadline is 5 p.m. Dec. 1, 2020.

Media Contact Information: uncomm@ncat.edu

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