Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Incredible Partnerships: Dr. Byron Lichtenberg & NASA

It's never been a secret that LeTourneau University's influence spans worldwide; however, "worldwide" is now too narrow a description for LETU's reach.

Dr. Byron Lichtenberg has been a professor at LETU for the past year, and his experience before joining LETU knows almost no bounds, including gravity.

Lichtenberg began his career with the Air Force and was a combat pilot in Vietnam in 1972. He then attended graduate school at MIT, receiving his master's and doctorate degrees in biomedical engineering.

In the early 1980s, he was selected by NASA as a payload specialist contractor and flew his first space shuttle mission in 1983 on the Columbia, NASA's 9th shuttle mission. NASA selected him to fly again in 1992 on the Atlantis STS-45. Over two missions, he's spent 19 days in space. 

In 1992, he began a 17-year job as a commercial airline pilot for Southwest Airlines.

In subsequent years, he started Zero Gravity Corporation, the only company that lets individuals experience zero gravity on earth via a specially modified Boeing 727. Stephen Hawking was one of the company's many patrons.

Lichtenberg was also a founding member of the XPRIZE foundation, a non-profit that offers a series of prizes, ranging up to millions of dollars, to encourage innovation in areas including but not limited to medical diagnostics, ocean stewardship and lunar exploration.

NASA chose him three decades ago. He's since chosen LETU; now NASA's chosen him again, this time for the Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

It's a first in space exploration. Through the CCP, NASA is seeking commercial contracts from companies Boeing and SpaceX that will transport astronauts and civilians to the International Space Station, ending reliance on Russia's space program by 2017.

Last spring, NASA contacted Dr. Lichtenberg, asking him to serve as the Chairperson of their Standing Review Board for the CCP.

"This is a small group of people who are generally independent of NASA," Lichtenberg said, describing the Standing Review Board. "We are asked to look at how the program's doing, whether the companies are meeting their objectives, if NASA is managing it properly and to provide an independent assessment of risk of the program, technical surety, and viability.

"We will review projects from both Boeing and SpaceX, convene and develop an independent assessment to give NASA a recommendation. It's another set of eyes and ears that have experience in the industry."

The CCP - a $7 billion program - is groundbreaking in that it's the first time NASA will utilize privately built spacecraft.

"What it's going to do is free up NASA money that they would have had to put into building this whole thing on their own. Even though NASA is still putting money into it, these commercial companies are putting at-risk capital into it as well," Lichtenberg explained. "This lets NASA take that money that it would have spent and put it into deep space exploration. Now we can start doing the big rockets again - go back to the moon, around the moon and start getting ready to go to Mars. That's the goal in the next 15-20 years."

Lichtenberg first became involved with LeTourneau when his wife chose LETU's online program to earn her teaching degree (which she did, with a 4.0 GPA). He then suggested LETU to his daughter, who was interested in engineering, during her college search. She's currently a biomedical engineering major at LETU.

During his first year on campus, Lichtenberg has been instrumental in launching LeTourneau's Master of Engineering Management (MEM), with specializations in aerospace, oil & gas, software engineering and program management. He now serves as Program Coordinator for the MEM, a degree that marries the university's tradition of excellence in engineering and business, which happen to also be two of Lichtenberg's areas of passion and expertise.

Dr. Ron DeLap, Dean of LETU's School of Engineering, shared that "Dr. Lichtenberg contributes a richness to our business and engineering programs that only an astronaut can bring. His decision to join our team is just one more example of how God continues to draw his very best to LeTourneau. Our students are thrilled that as a part of their education, they can meet one-on-one with a godly man who has been in space multiple times, and has also started several space-related businesses as an entrepreneur. I look forward to what God will continue to do through Dr. Lichtenberg at LeTourneau University."

We at LETU take great pride in that an individual whose advice is sought from one of the most advanced institutions in the world simultaneously teaches our students every day. Since 1946, we've had some of the world's leading experts instruct our students, and we're thrilled that we can now count a leading expert from space in that number.

You can find LeTourneau's resident astronaut on earth, in Longview Hall, bringing his entrepreneurial expertise to School of Business students, and teaching an occasional engineering class. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fall Fest Recap: Our Nine Favorite Moments

We've just concluded another year of Fall Fest and wanted to take a moment to recap our favorite moments of the week. If you have a favorite moment we missed, comment below! 

1. These Car Cram faces that basically say, "I have made a terrible mistake." 

2. 41's amazing cramming skills; they topped out at 17 people.  

You're looking at the eighth wonder of the world. 

3. These sweet dance moves. 

4. This stache...

5. ...and this fro. 

6. G2 and 41's Sailor and Red Cross theme.

7. A cameo from everyone's favorite canine sleuth. 

We hope he was rewarded with a Scooby Snack for his stellar performance.

8. D2's beach-themed bacon.

In a perfect world, the sun would be made of this deliciousness and send
sunshiny rays of bacon bits down to earth.

9. And for our final favorite 2014 Fall Fest moment (drumroll, please): Behold, ZOMBIE PUMPKIN! 

Enough said. 

See you at Fall Fest 2015 - unless you've graduated by then. In that event, commence in feeling nostalgic about LETU traditions. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Incredible Care: LeTourneau University Opens School of Nursing

In 1942, on the land we now know as LeTourneau University's residential campus in Longview, Texas, Harmon Army General Hospital opened to provide care for wounded WWII veterans.

This heritage of compassionate healthcare continues this fall as the 2014-2015 academic year begins, with the inception of LETU's School of Nursing.

Heading up the program is Dr. Kimberly Quiett, Dean of the School of Nursing, who has 24 years of nursing experience, 13 of which in nursing education. She explains why LETU's program is unique: 

"The fact that we are integrating faith in our curriculum sets us apart," she said. "We also have small class sizes. Our nursing student to faculty ratio is 5:1. That's opposed to other nursing schools that often involve class sizes of 100 or more."

This ratio makes a significant difference when a student's career goal involves public health. It's widely known that smaller classes provide superior learning environments

Jennifer Bray, R.N. instructs in LETU's new nursing lab.
"I am very excited about the nursing program here at LeTourneau," said junior nursing student Hannah Campbell, of Ben Wheeler, Texas.

"The faculty are fantastic," she said. "They each bring a unique background and personality to our classes and help us master the material and learn to apply it from various perspectives. LeTourneau University's nursing program is truly preparing us to be skilled and competent in our field no matter where nursing may take us."

With an entire building devoted to their program, the school's brand-new, state-of-the-art facilities provide ample opportunity for hands-on learning. Equipment includes six adult, two children, and two infant mid-fidelity simulators, intravenous arms, a CPR simulator, a Chester Chest, and a lab set up to imitate an intensive care unit.

The practical learning doesn't stop there. Clinical training is an integral part of the Nursing School experience. LETU's nursing program has over 20 clinical affiliation practices in the East Texas area in a variety of settings, including acute care, assisted living, chronic children's care, and community and acute care psychiatric facilities. 

Not only that, but faculty member Jennifer Bray's experience includes seven years an an R.N. at Good Shepherd Medical Center, where she placed nursing students for clinical training.

"She really understands what students need in the clinical setting," Quiett said. 

Students benefit from hands-on learning
and small class sizes.
Nursing is an extremely unique profession; it's meaningful, as well as in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 19% over the next decade. As the baby-boomer generation heads into retirement, now, more than ever, nurses are needed and being hired across the country. 

"There's an ongoing nursing shortage in the U.S.," Quiett said. "Bottom line - nurses get jobs." 

"Nurses are especially sought-after by mission organizations, especially to work internationally," she added. "This is the career goal of several of our freshmen students."

They'll begin to realize their dreams in May when a group of nursing students will travel with Buckner International to serve in Guatemala. 

Sixty-eight years have passed since nurses roamed the halls of Harmon Army General Hospital, now LeTourneau University. No doubt; within only a few years, a growing number of LETU nurses will continue to make a difference domestically and across the globe, carrying with them both the knowledge and heart that characterize LeTourneau graduates.