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DEEP WATER EXPLORERAdult student finds success after second plunge into collegeMARINE TECHNOLOGY student Sarah Sergent’s enthusiasm for learning new things is as deep as the uncharted waters of the Atlantic that she’s now exploring.

Sergent, 38, is spending the summer as an intern aboard a research vessel, helping operate the remotely operated vehicle Jason on its four-mile deep dives into the Atlantic Ocean.

“It’s an absolute dream,” said Sergent, who as a sophomore didn’t expect to land a paid internship through the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Boston, home of the National Deep Submergence Facility. She applied anyway, hoping the experience of the process might help her in a year or two. “I want to be able to go to these uncharted depths and see and learn things people have never known before.”

One of three ROV units operated by the NDSF, a consortium of the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jason enables scientists to access the seafloor without leaving the ship’s deck. Just how deep is four miles? Twenty times deeper than Lake Michigan.

“Sarah continues the legacy of NMC Marine Technology students receiving prestigious internships and scholarships,” said Hans Van Sumeren, director of NMC’s Great Lakes Water Studies Institute. “Working alongside some of the world’s greatest scientists, Sarah will be part of a team that can explore the deepest depths of the ocean using some of the most state-of-the-art equipment available.”

Sergent’s achievement is all the more remarkable considering that she had to overcome self-doubt to even return to college as an adult student. She left Saginaw Valley State University nearly two decades ago when a back injury ended her pole vaulting career and cost her an athletic scholarship. She worked in behavioral health and substance abuse recovery coaching for a decade, and marked 10 years in recovery herself in March. She enrolled in the Marine Technology program in January 2021.
“ THIS IS A HIGHLY COMPETITIVE INTERNSHIP AND STUDENTS APPLY FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. – HANS VAN SUMEREN, NMCOnce at NMC, her confidence flourished with the help of a success coach, a kind of re-entry navigator. Her foundation was further fortified with personal assistance from Van Sumeren and Marine Technology program coordinator John Lutchko on everything from course selection to preparation for the internship interview.

“It’s a testament to what this program does and the places you can go and the opportunities that are presented,” Sergent said. “It’s possible. Not just people my age, but people in recovery.”

Van Sumeren said that Sergent’s internship will only improve already outstanding job prospects when she enters the marine industry workforce. NMC’s BSMT graduates are highly sought after, with most students receiving multiple job offers. Starting salaries range from $75,000–$85,000.

“This is a highly competitive internship and students apply from all over the world,” Van Sumeren said. “Sarah’s internship experience will only open new doors for her to consider.”

Sergent will be at sea with Jason through early July. She expects to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in 2024.

“It’s amazing the things we’re capable of. We shortchange ourselves sometimes,” Sergent said. “You can change your life and have more than you could ever even fathom.” N