February 19, 2016
The work of STEM professionals has led to some of the greatest achievements in human history, yet the general public is far too often unaware of their accomplishments. Furthermore, women and underrepresented minorities are disproportionately left out of STEM fields, both in terms of educational and career opportunities. There are many reasons for the lack of diversity in STEM today, but undoubtedly, one of those reasons is our nation’s struggle to relevantly promote STEM in an inclusive way. It’s an issue of marketing – not content. As a result, the way we present STEM in America needs to change. It needs to be more diverse, modern, and engaging. The space industry has a large role to play in shaping the public perception of STEM, as do teachers, students, artists, and filmmakers alike. Everyone can, and must, contribute.
Dr. Wanda M. Austin is president and chief executive officer of The Aerospace Corporation, a leading architect for the nation’s national security space programs. The Aerospace Corporation has nearly 4,000 employees and annual revenues of more than $850 million. She assumed this position on January 1, 2008.
She is internationally recognized for her work in satellite and payload system acquisition, systems engineering, and system simulation.
Austin serves on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, was appointed to the Defense Science Board in 2010, and was appointed to the NASA Advisory Council in 2014.
Austin earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Franklin & Marshall College, master’s degrees in systems engineering and mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh, and a doctorate in systems engineering from the University of Southern California.
Austin is an honorary fellow of the AIAA, a councilor of the National Academy of Engineering, and a member of the International Academy of Astronautics and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Space Foundation, and on the Board of Trustees for the University of Southern California and the National Geographic Society.
Austin has received numerous awards and citations. Among them are the National Intelligence Medallion for Meritorious Service, the Air Force Scroll of Achievement, and the National Reconnaissance Office Gold Medal. In 2010 she received the AIAA von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management, and is a recipient of the 2012 Horatio Alger Award, the 2012 NDIA Peter B. Teets Industry Award, and the 2014 USC Viterbi Distinguished Alumni Award.
Austin is committed to inspiring the next generation to study the STEM disciplines and to make science and engineering preferred career choices. Under her guidance, the corporation has undertaken a number of initiatives in support of this goal, including participation in MATHCOUNTS, US FIRST Robotics, and Change the Equation.