Alfred Grasso i
s responsible for developing and leading the organization’s overall strategic and business operations, including its federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs). He also serves on MITRE
’s board of trustees. Concurrent with his CEO responsibilities, Mr. Grasso is director of MITRE’s National Security Engineering Center, responsible for delivering transformational solutions for the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community.
Mr. Grasso is dedicated to increasing opportunities for promising young people to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). He is a member of the Stevens Institute Systems Engineering Research Center advisory board, the University of Virginia’s Department of Systems and Information Engineering advisory board, and Howard University’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences board of visitors. Most notably, Mr. Grasso has for many years supported the efforts of the National GEM Consortium, a nonprofit that promotes the participation of underrepresented groups in the STEM fields. He was formerly president of GEM’s board. Mr. Grasso is also chairman of AFCEA International’s board of directors. The AFCEA Educational Foundation provides education incentives, opportunities and assistance for people engaged in STEM disciplines, including student and teacher scholarships.
Mr. Grasso is an appointed member of the Defense Science Board and special adviser to the STRATCOM Strategic Advisory Group. He was formerly a member of the Army Science Board.
Mr. Grasso and his wife, Michele, live in Oakton, Va., and are the proud parents of daughters, Alessandra, Lindsay and Stephanie. The Grassos encourage their daughters’ educational aspirations, and all three have excelled in science and mathematics. Alessandra graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in Nano-Medicine Engineering, and Lindsay is pursuing pre-med studies at Clemson University. Mr. Grasso is confident that Stephanie will follow closely in their footsteps as she enters Virginia Tech.
Why do you believe STEM education/workforce developments are critical to our nation's future?
For generations, the United States has been a world leader in innovations that have transformed our daily lives, shaped our nation, and supported our economy. To continue down this impressive path, we need to create a STEM pipeline that nurtures and develops technical expertise. STEM education will help our country expand the pool of talented people who can deliver the innovation and technical prowess that will maintain our nation’s competitiveness.
How does MITRE encourage students to continue their study of STEM subjects, particularly women and underrepresented minorities?
We are committed to investing time and effort to engage students and inspire teachers to nurture the next generation of engineers and scientists.
For more than 30 years, MITRE has been an employer member of the National GEM Consortium
, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the participation of underrepresented groups in post-graduate science and engineering education and the technical workforce. As part of our partnership, MITRE has proudly sponsored more than 70 interns, many of whom have been hired into permanent positions.
MITRE also supports a wide variety of community-based STEM initiatives. Key initiatives include providing summer jobs to high school and college students, including a dedicated Nanotechnology Student Program
; participating in Leadership Initiatives for Teaching and Technology, which places school teachers in an externship program at MITRE to help them relate classroom curriculum to real-world workplaces; and hosting Young Women in Engineering
events, among many others. Throughout the year, our employees can also be found mentoring students in the community, serving as judges in science fairs and speaking at local schools.
Of which STEM initiatives that your company has supported are you most proud?
I am proud of the numerous STEM initiatives that MITRE participates in. If I had to choose one, I’d say I am most proud of our Student Program
. Every year, more than 200 students join MITRE in a co-op, internship or full-time job position—many of whom return year after year while completing their studies.
As part of our Student Program, students, ranging from high school to doctoral-level programs, are mentored by and work directly with our staff on a technical problem with real-world impact. While the majority of our students pursue education and training in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering, we offer opportunities across numerous disciplines, including systems engineering, mathematics, aerospace engineering, cybersecurity, public health, physics and nanotechnology.
Within our Student Program, we also have a summer research program within our nanosystems group. In this program, nine to 12 students work in small teams and receive continuous mentoring. Many of these former students are now leaders in nanotechnology and related technical fields.
What do we need in the US to continue to be at the top of global innovation?
To continue to be at the top of global innovation, we must get and keep students interested in STEM fields. This starts by offering high-quality STEM education programs that engage students and demonstrate real-world applicability of what they are learning. Students who do not know an engineer, scientist or a STEM professional, often do not know the wide range of opportunities that these careers present or how to develop a career plan. We need to ensure that all students have the opportunity to discover a passion for STEM fields.
To support these efforts, we need a comprehensive and collaborative effort across the public and private sectors that supports scholarships and academic programs aimed at increasing and maintaining participation in STEM disciplines. Strengthening the U.S. STEM pipeline is of critical importance, particularly to organizations that work on sensitive government projects and can only hire U.S. citizens, many of whom must be able to obtain high-level security clearances. Today’s STEM students—from kindergarten to doctoral programs—are tomorrow’s innovation and technology leaders.
How is your company connecting diversity initiatives with STEM initiatives? Is this a part of your comprehensive strategy?
At MITRE, we apply our expertise to provide guidance to address some of our government’s most critical needs. The best way to meet these needs and bring forward the most innovative solutions is to create highly skilled teams whose members have diverse experiences and perspectives.
To build these teams, we support a broad range of programs designed to encourage people, especially those from underrepresented groups, to pursue STEM fields. Notably, our employees are active participants at numerous STEM conferences, including the Society of Women Engineers
Conference and Women in Technology
Conference, and host Young Women in Engineering events. MITRE also actively recruits talent from underrepresented academic intuitions, including Howard University
and the University of Puerto Rico