Marta R. Metelko
Stennis Space Center, Miss.
April 21, 2004
NASA Environmental Engineer Is In The Business Of Change
Environmental engineer Jenette Gordon of the Stennis Space Center. Photo credit: NASA.
As an engineer at NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC), Jenette Gordon uses her knowledge of chemicals and their potential ecological impact to search for ways to minimize long-term environmental effects.
Gordon oversees all environmental cleanup activities at SSC. She started her career with NASA in 1974, after graduating with a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. Gordon briefly taught junior high science, before General Electric hired her as a contractor at SSC. She worked in the environment lab, evaluating the absorption of contaminants in aquatic plants and studying their affects on the ecosystem. She went on to supervise her contract team, overseeing the collection of all data in the lab.
Gordon was hired by NASA in 1994 as a civil servant to continue her work in the lab. She also was tapped to handle permit and reporting efforts for environment cleanup areas around the center.
"The scope of my job really gives me a chance to make a difference, educating NASA employees and administrators, as well as the community, about effective changes we can make to help our environment and the ecosystem," Gordon said. "I'm doing what I can to help change the culture around here and let people know they can make a difference, no matter how small. A difference not just limited to the workplace," she said.
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. In August, she was awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal for her expert knowledge of, and creative approaches to, the handling of hazardous waste and permitting.
Gordon is also changing the landscape of her profession. She was recognized as a Woman of Achievement by the 2003 Woman of Color Research Sciences and Technology Awards conference, sponsored by the U.S. Black Engineer Information Technology magazine. The conference recognized under-represented women of color in the engineering community and celebrated their accomplishments.
Gordon doesn't see change as a roadblock or a challenge, but as an opportunity for betterment. "So much good can come from changing something, whether it's the air we breathe or the lives we touch," she said. "Either way, you have a chance to make a tremendous impact."
Gordon is also making an impact in her community. In 1999, Gordon founded El Shaddi United Ministries, an outreach church group whose vision is to help socially challenged men and women of all ages become contributing members of society. It's a service she and the church perform with pride.
"There is so much emotion watching people develop into quality individuals, and maybe our ministry plays a role in that," Gordon says. "To see their growth and development happening right before your eyes is a tremendous sense of accomplishment, not just for them, but for me as well."
Media organizations interested in interviewing Gordon should contact Rebecca Strecker, Stennis Space Center Public Affairs, at: 228/688-3346.
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