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Atlantic Cape Alumna and Current NASA Employee Nicole Schoenstein Dreamed Big and Reached for the Stars

11/27/2023 | Media Contact: David Zuba, Public Relations Manager and Copywriter | (609) 343-4933
Atlantic Cape 2010 and 2012 Alumna Nicole Schoenstein

MAYS LANDING — Breaking out of one’s proverbial shell to realize their tremendous potential can be a difficult challenge that takes courage, perseverance and dedication. To find your passion, to shoot for the stars and literally achieve your dream working among them is the realization of years of hard work.

From South Jersey college student to Human Factors engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Johnson Space Center in Houston, Atlantic Cape alumna and Mays Landing native Nicole Schoenstein is a living embodiment of these qualities.

Being a homebound student throughout high school taught Schoenstein invaluable skills that led her to really enjoy the process of learning. The thought of attending college, though, was never discussed at home and far from her mind.

“College was the furthest thing from my mind because I didn’t see it as an option. It was never discussed at home and I didn’t even know community college existed until I did research about it a couple of years after earning my high school diploma.”

Her research led to admission into Atlantic Cape where Schoenstein majored in Paralegal Studies. But, it was an invitation to join the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society (PTK) during her second semester that would change her life forever.

“PTK, in fact, opened many doors for me, including leadership and community service opportunities within and outside of PTK. It slowly, but surely, helped me build enough confidence and motivation within myself to take on different types of opportunities, despite my hesitancy.”

It was with PTK that Schoenstein first learned about NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program and got her “foot in the door.” Around that time, she became pregnant with her son, but she continued to thrive in school, and at home and work, thanks to her time management, and support from those close to her at home and in school.

Schoenstein dedicated herself to PTK during her time at Atlantic Cape, serving in several roles, such as Recording Secretary, Vice President and President as well as a Middle State Regional Officer as New Jersey State President.

“During my term as Alpha Delta Mu Chapter President, the Chapter became a Five Star Chapter for the first time in several years. We also won the Middle States Regional Milestone Award, which is given to the most improved chapter for increasing their activities within a one-year period. Additionally, I was named as a Hall of Honor Chapter President and a Distinguished Chapter President.”

Schoenstein graduated in 2010 with her Associate in Applied Science degree in Paralegal Studies. She continued her studies at Atlantic Cape and earned an Associate in Science degree in General Studies in 2012 as well.

“I decided to do this because I was in the process of taking on a couple of potentially life-changing opportunities that required college enrollment. Throughout my educational journey at community college and university, I bounced around a lot deciding which majors to ultimately choose.”

After enrolling at Stockton University as a Computer Science major in 2012, Schoenstein became enamored once again with Psychology. After researching potential careers at NASA where she could utilize the experience gleaned from a potential Psychology degree, she learned about the field of Human Factors and how it’s structured to help understand how humans learn, interact with and attend to their environment. With that exciting knowledge in mind, Schoenstein changed her major to Psychology and set about creating her own Human Factors degree program by taking classes most relevant to her field of study.

While at Stockton University, Schoenstein completed three internships at the NASA Johnson Space Center in 2015 and 2016, which led to a job offer after she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with minors in Behavioral Neuroscience and Gerontology in 2016.

For the past seven years now, Schoenstein has worked as a contractor at NASA for Aegis Aerospace as a Human Factors Engineer for the Human Factors Implementation Team (HFIT), which maintains the International Space Station’s (ISS) requirements and standards. In 2020, she earned her Master of Science in Human Factors with dual specialization in Aerospace and Systems Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Schoenstein looks back at her decision to choose Atlantic Cape and how it changed her life for the better.

“I decided to enroll at Atlantic Cape because it was relatively local and it had a good reputation. It was also the most cost-effective option for someone like me who had very limited resources at the time.”

Visit for more information on the Atlantic Cape Alumni Association.


About Atlantic Cape Community College

Atlantic Cape is a comprehensive two-year community college serving the residents of Atlantic and Cape May counties. The college offers over 40 career, transfer and workforce development programs to more than 8,000 students annually at three campuses in New Jersey: Atlantic City, Cape May Court House and Mays Landing.