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Wanda Austin
Wanda Austin official photo.jpg
Born 1954 (age 66–67)
Education Franklin and Marshall College (BS)
University of Pittsburgh (MS)
University of Southern California (PhD)
Occupation Engineer
Engineering career
Discipline Aerospace
Institutions American Academy of Arts and Sciences
National Academy of Engineering
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
NASA Advisory Council
Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee
Defense Science Board

Wanda M. Austin (born 1954) is a former president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation, a leading architect for the nation’s national security space programs. She was both the first woman, and the first African-American, to hold this position. The Aerospace Corporation has nearly 3,600 employees and annual revenues of more than $917 million. Austin assumed this position on January 1, 2008, and retired on October 1, 2016. She continues as a consultant for the corporation.

Austin served as interim president for the University of Southern California, following the resignation of C. L. Max Nikias. She was both the first woman, and the first African-American, to hold this position.

She continues to serve on the board of directors of the Space Foundation and Chevron Corporation, and on the board of trustees for the University of Southern California and the National Geographic Society.

Early life and education

Austin was born in The Bronx in New York City. She graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. She earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Franklin & Marshall College, a master's degree in systems engineering and mathematics (1977) from the University of Pittsburgh. After completing her Master's degree, she worked at Rockwell International for eighteen months, before moving to the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California in 1979, where she worked on various aspects of satellite communications and defense. In 1988, she earned her doctorate (PhD) from the University of Southern California, with a dissertation entitled, "Understanding Natural Language in the Application of System Dynamics Modeling." Austin explains her work in the MILSAC (Military Satellite Communications) Program at Aerospace Corporation and talks about how the Cold War affected the satellite business and space technology..and a doctorate in systems engineering from .

Career

Austin was senior vice president of Aerospace's National Systems Group before becoming the CEO. The company supports the national security space and intelligence community. Prior to that, she served as senior vice president of the corporation's Engineering and Technology Group. Before working at Aerospace, Austin worked at Rockwell International on the technical staff.

In 2015, Austin was selected by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. PCAST is an advisory group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President and the Executive Office of the President. In 2009, Austin served as a member of NASA Advisory Council and U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, both of which were White House commissioned.

In 2010, Austin was appointed to the Defense Science Board. Austin is a member of the California Council on Science and Technology, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Academy of Astronautics and a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. She 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.

On August 7, 2018, Austin was named the interim president of the University of Southern California after C. L. Max Nikias's resignation. She was succeeded by the university's permanent replacement, Carol Folt, in 2019. The University created an endowed scholarship in her name in thanks and recognition of her leadership during this tumultuous period.

Book

In 2016, Austin published a book called Making Space: Strategic Leadership for a Complex World.

Awards

Austin is a recipient of the National Intelligence Medallion for Meritorious Service, the Air Force Scroll of Achievement, and the National Reconnaissance Office Gold Distinguished Service Medal. In 2010, she received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management, and the Air Force Scroll of Achievement. She is a recipient of the 2012 Horatio Alger Award and the 2012 NDIA Peter B. Teets Industry award. She also received the USC Presidential Medallion in 2018.

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