Gwen's Young's life has been anything but ordinary since she joined NASA as a Presidential Management Intern at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. some 22 years ago.
Young, a native Pacific Islander, was fresh out of college with a master's degree in public administration in hand when she began work in the agency's comptroller's office in 1983.
Now the Associate Director for Management of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif., Young's professional experience and growth through a series of increasingly responsible positions has helped her to serve as a role model for young women and girls, demonstrating that they can be anything they choose to be, regardless of their ethnicity or background.
Her service is being recognized this week by the Federal Asian Pacific American Council, which is honoring Young with its Outstanding Individual Leadership Award for achieving personal goals and displaying exceptional leadership qualities that will inspire others to follow.
Born in Hawaii as Gwendolyn Vaisega Young - her middle name reflecting her maternal grandmother's first name - she was primarily raised in Southern California. Her maternal grandparents are Samoan; her paternal grandmother is Hawaiian and grandfather is Korean.
As a military child who moved every couple of years, she took comfort in her studies, and unlike many girls, she thoroughly enjoyed math and science. In high school, she took great delight in challenging the boys to see who could get the highest grades.
"Though I did very well in high school, I had few role models to emulate," she recalls.
She obtained a bachelor of science degree in elementary education and her master's in public administration from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Her selection as a Presidential Management Intern and her appointment to serve at NASA Headquarters turned her career prospects from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
One of her major assignments at NASA Headquarters was supporting the agency's comptroller, Thomas Newman, during the budget formulation process. She also worked briefly on Capitol Hill for then-congressman Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii, supporting his appropriation subcommittee's staff work.
"Through these experiences, I learned about the federal budget process and decided to work in this area for the rest of my career," she said.
Before coming to Dryden, Young served as the Resources Management Officer, responsible for all budget activities at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Young also worked in the Office of the International Space Station at both NASA Headquarters and in the Space Station Program Office in Reston, Va. During this time, she also completed a one-year detail as the NASA budget focal point in the Air Force/NASA's Joint Program Office of the National Launch System program at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.
Young transferred to NASA Dryden in 1995 when she was appointed as the center's Chief Financial Officer, responsible for overall financial and budget activities. At the time, Young was only the second woman in NASA to hold this position.
As the Associate Director for Management since June 2002, Young has been responsible for NASA Dryden's business functions such as acquisition, finance, etc., to ensure they provide efficient and effective support of the center's programs. Currently, Young and Steve Schmidt, Dryden's Deputy Director, are tasked with restructuring the institution to be more competitive for new business opportunities both from within and outside of NASA. Their challenge is to make the type of cuts that do not negatively affect the center or its key responsibilities in such areas as safety, security, and other fiduciary responsibilities while reducing the center's overhead costs.
Young, who celebrates her 22nd year with NASA in June, comments that she has thoroughly enjoyed her time with NASA and looks forward to an exciting future ahead.
"I'm never bored," she quipped, "just very tired."
In her spare time, Young is active on the board of her condominium association, in her church, and likes to cook.
Young enjoys mentoring young women, encouraging them to believe in themselves and know that they can accomplish anything they choose. She participates in the "Women of NASA" program in hopes of being a role model to girls from minority backgrounds and to girls who enjoy math.
PHOTO EDITORS: A recent publication-quality photo of Gwen Young is available for downloading from the NASA Dryden photo gallery at: http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Gallery/Photo/People/HTML/EC04-0338-2.html
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