Scholarship Guarantees Alumnus Civilian Employment in Department of Defense

After graduate school, Noah Schulz ’20 will work at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

Noah Schulz ’20 was awarded a highly competitive Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship funded through the Department of Defense (DOD) to enhance the civilian workforce with innovative scientists and engineers.

Schulz majored in mathematics and physics at Concordia. After graduation, he proceeded to the University of South Florida to pursue a doctorate in applied physics. He was one of 18 physics doctoral students who won a SMART scholarship.

“That meant I moved across the country to grad school during COVID, which was scary but also a great learning experience,” Schulz said. 

This was Schulz’s second time applying for the scholarship. He was a semifinalist when he applied as an undergrad.

“My time at Concordia helped me in many ways,” Schulz added. “Throughout my years studying at Concordia, I was able to work on my writing skills which helped me in this successful application. Concordia also prepared me technically for my graduate studies. Studying both mathematics and physics gave me a broad background that made understanding some of the more difficult graduate-level coursework easier.”

The SMART program provides STEM students with the tools needed to pursue higher education and begin a career with the DOD. The DOD civilian workforce is responsible for solving the nation’s most complex challenges by developing the next generation of defense technologies and is the largest employer of federal scientists and engineers with nearly 150,000 civilian STEM employees working across the department.

Schulz described SMART as a scholarship-for-service program meaning that for every year of degree funding, the scholar commits to working for a year with the DOD as a civilian employee. The scholarship includes full tuition, a living stipend, and funding for miscellaneous/health insurance fees. Students are also given the opportunity to engage in summer internships at their sponsoring facility, which is fully funded.

He added that in order to be awarded a SMART scholarship, a DOD-sponsoring facility must agree to sponsor the awardee. After the semifinalist stage, potential sponsoring facilities look for potential awardees that fit their technical criteria. Once the potential awardees are found, a series of interviews are performed. Then the sponsoring facility can choose to sponsor an awardee, which was what happened in his case. Schulz’s sponsoring facility is the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, Fla., which is located within the Florida Panhandle and along the Emerald Coast.

Schulz will begin full-time work at the Naval Surface Warfare Center after graduation but plans on interning there next summer as part of the SMART program to prepare himself for his future role as a civilian DOD employee. His research focuses on magnetic interactions that occur between graphene and ferrimagnetic insulators, and he plans to complete his doctorate by the spring of 2024. At that time, he’ll begin his service stage of the SMART scholarship.

“I think Concordia instilled in me the passion and wherewithal to become responsibly engaged in the world (#BREW),” he said, “which is what I do in both my community service work here in Tampa, including being actively involved in the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program, as well as in my future role at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.”