Specialty: Systems Engineering
NASA Advisory Council
Former CEO, The Aerospace Corporation
Former Interim President University of Southern California
Trustee and Adjunct Research Professor at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering
Image Source: NASA
A sought after leader and advisor to presidents, government agencies, educational institutions and corporations alike, Dr. Wanda Austin is an internationally recognized system engineer. Austin was born in New York City in 1954. Growing up she was involved in church activities and the Girl Scouts and attended the prestigious Bronx High School of Science.
Earning her bachelors in mathematics from Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania and a Master’s in mathematics and systems engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, Austin joined the Aerospace Corporation in 1982 as an entry level engineer. While working on satellite communications projects, Austin earned her doctorate in systems engineering from the University of Southern California and continued to work her way up the ranks at Aerospace.
Austin became CEO of Aerospace on January 1, 2008, making her the first woman and first African American to hold this position. In this role she had to lead her staff to meet the needs of both government agencies and private organizations. Recognizing the importance of being positive role models for the next generation, she made sure the corporation was involved in MATHCOUNTS, US FIRST Robotics, and Change the Equation.
While Austin retired from her role as CEO of Aerospace in 2016, she also published her book Making Space: Strategic Leadership for a Complex World the same year. Retirement didn’t last long – she co-founded MakingSpace, Inc in 2017, where she serves as a motivational speaker on STEM education. In August 2018 she was named the Interim President of University of Southern California, being the first African American woman to hold the position.
Austin has been appointed to the Defence Science Board, the NASA Advisory Council and served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology during the Obama administration. Many corporations have benefited from her expertise while sitting on their boards including Chevron Corporation, Virgin Galactic Holdings, Amgen, and it was announced in early 2024 that she has been nominated for election to Apple’s board of directors.
Beyond being internationally recognized for her work in systems engineering, Austin wants to serve as an inspiration to the next generation of potential STEM professionals and encourage people to pursue careers in science and engineering.
Written by Angela Goad