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Vanessa Wyche Leads The Way At NASA, Destigmatizing Firsts And Advancing Diversity In STEM Fields

Vanessa Wyche is leading the way at NASA and made history in the process.

Since 1989, the South Carolina native, with a Bachelor of Science in materials engineering and a Master of Science in bioengineering from Clemson University, has worked at the U.S. government agency. Her first role was as a project engineer managing several space shuttle missions, as previously reported by AFROTECH™.

Wyche was fueled by her interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and has continued to rise in the ranks with her titles having included director, CX program operations and test integration (2010-2011); director, exploration integration and science (2016-2018); and deputy director, NASA’s Johnson Space Center (2018-2021), according to her LinkedIn profile.

“I knew when I got to the Johnson Space Center, there were not a lot of people that looked like me doing the kind of jobs that I was doing,” she told KHOU-11 in Houston, TX. “So, I kind of had to just kind of decide that it was what I wanted to do, what I loved to do. And I put myself out and into positions that I could be able to do things that I love to do.”

In 2021, she was appointed as director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and has maintained that title since. Her responsibilities include leading human spaceflight missions, the nation’s astronaut corps, International Space Station mission operations, and the Orion Program, Texas Public Radio mentions.

“It is just an honor to know that I will have the opportunity to lead these efforts as we’re moving forward,” she told a Houston ABC news affiliate, the outlet notes.

What’s more, Wyche becomes the first Black woman to lead a NASA center.

She has also enforced NASA’s strategic plan for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility announcing the agency awarded $11.7 million to eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), her LinkedIn notes. Made possible through NASA’s Data Science Equity, Access, and Priority in Research and Education opportunity, the funds were provided to support data science research to aid its mission in 2023.

Wyche has devoted time to guiding STEM students, with the goal of making diversity in various fields a normal expectation rather than a notable accomplishment.

“As we are progressing we have to make sure that we have enough people that we are bringing with us and that they can then flow such as we don’t have the first Black this or that but that it becomes normal,” she mentioned to KHOU-11. “I am definitely looking forward to the day that it is not a rare thing to see people in positions, especially in technical fields or that are women of color and that are people of color.”

During her tenure, Wyche  has been recognized by NASA, earning two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals and two NASA Achievement Medals.

AFROTECH™ Future 50

The recognition continues, as she is a part of our 2024 AFROTECH™ Future 50 as a Corporate Catalyst who actively promotes diversity.

In addition to Corporate Catalysts, AFROTECH™ Future 50 celebrates Dynamic Investors, Future Makers, Changemakers, and Visionary Founders who are taking part in shaping the future.

To check out the full list, click here.



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