Northrop Grumman, George Mason University (GMU), Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam recently celebrated the first class enrolled in the schools’ ADVANCE program.

GMU’s ADVANCE program is a partnership with NOVA that seeks to improve graduation rates for community college students and aims to assist students’ paths to a four-year degree while saving time and money. The program collaborates with area employers to adapt and create high-demand programs to address workforce needs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

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Shawn Purvis, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Enterprise Services speaking at GMU's ADVANCE celebration. Photo credit: Lathan Goumas, George Mason University

Shawn Purvis, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman’s Enterprise Services sector, celebrated the milestone. Purvis serves on GMU’s board of visitors and is an active member of the school’s Executive Leadership Council.

“Our partnership will prepare students for the technical workforce,” said Purvis. “In addition to supporting students in their pursuit of technical degrees, we also recognize that internships and job opportunities are essential to this program’s success.”

At the event, Governor Northam presented a significant contribution to the program on behalf of the Northrop Grumman Foundation. The Northrop Grumman Foundation’s donation will be used to establish a scholarship fund for ADVANCE students pursing STEM degrees.

Northrop Grumman has been very active with George Mason University in addressing the needs of the STEM workforce. For example, the company sponsored the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement program which enhances science education in Virginia by promoting hands-on, problem based learning which empowers teachers and engages students.

The company also worked with the school to create an innovative cyber security degree program whose students learn specific skills to help defend against cyberattacks on large systems, such as water treatment plants, the electrical grid, and computers in automobiles and airplanes.

Mike Papay, Northrop Grumman’s vice president and chief information security officer, was instrumental in helping establish this program. Papay is also the chair of the university’s Volgenau School of Engineering Advisory Board.

“We recognize the growing need for a skilled workforce, trained and equipped to maintain our nation’s technological edge,” said Purvis. “Northrop Grumman believes business has a responsibility to be a part of these partnerships.”

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Pictured from left to right: David Wu, provost, George Mason University; Tim O'Brien, frontend director of business integration, Micron Technology, Inc.; Rick Pearson, chairman, NOVA's College Board; Scott Ralls, president, Northern Virginia Community College; James Hazel, vice rector, George Mason University's board of visitors; Virginia Governor Ralph Northam; Michelle Marks, vice president for Academic Innovation and New Ventures, George Mason University; Shawn Purvis, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Enterprise Services; Atif Qarni, Virginia Secretary of Education and Ángel Cabrera, president, George Mason University. Photo credit: George Mason University.