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Langley Celebrates Black History Month: Brittny McGraw

Brittny McGraw serves as News Chief in the Office of Communications at NASA’s Langley Research Center. She joined NASA Langley in September 2023, after a 20-year career as an award-winning broadcast journalist.
NASA/David C. Bowman

Brittny McGraw serves as News Chief in the Office of Communications at NASA’s Langley Research Center. She joined NASA Langley in September 2023, after a 20-year career as an award-winning broadcast journalist. Her broadcast career included stops in New Bern, N.C., Dayton, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Pa. and most recently Roanoke, Va. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and a bachelor’s degree in Romance Languages from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Brittny is excited to find new and innovative ways to share NASA Langley’s story.      

Who or what inspired you to choose your career and why?   

 I’ve enjoyed communicating stories and impact since I was a third-grade student doing the school announcements. My mom recognized my interests in writing and public speaking and suggested I consider attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to major in journalism. I took that suggestion to heart. As a high school senior, I only applied to UNC-CH, because I felt my calling to be a journalist was predestined! Shortly after graduation I started my first reporting job in New Bern, N.C. and began a career that allowed me to give a voice to the voiceless, hold the powerful accountable, and keep my community informed about issues that would impact them. I’m always grateful I had the opportunity to live out the dreams of third grade me. 

Along the way I realized my communications skills didn’t have to be limited to a newsroom. I saw the value of using my foundation as a journalist to uplift and amplify messaging for one organization. That’s how I found NASA Langley and I’m so glad I did! It has been wonderful helping people outside our gates understand how the work we’re doing is changing their lives and inspiring a better world.      

What do you find most rewarding about working with NASA?   

I love that NASA is a place where you can challenge yourself, learn, and grow in a supportive environment. I’m naturally curious and inquisitive and ask a *lot* of questions, and that’s encouraged here. It was a little scary stepping away from the news industry I was very familiar with and making the transition to an entirely new world of NASA. What I quickly realized is the basics of communications don’t change, no matter if you’re sharing breaking news or the latest achievement in aeronautics: you have to know how to share the impact of your work and why your audience should care. It has been great to develop my communications skills in new and different ways here at NASA Langley. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?   

 I’m a fitness enthusiast so I love working out! Staying active takes me to my happy place. I run, do strength training, high-intensity interval training, and mobility and flexibility work. I’ve competed in fitness competitions, completed three half-marathons and one obstacle course race, and enjoy challenging myself physically and mentally. It’s the best feeling when you set a personal record on a power clean or a front squat, or you shave a few seconds off your one-mile run. I’m constantly amazed and proud of what my mind and body can do.  

I also enjoy traveling the world with my sister. Two of the most beautiful places we’ve visited are Tahiti and its sister island, Moorea. There are so many fascinating places to see and people to meet, and we’re trying to do that one trip at a time.   

What advice would you give to someone who might be interested in pursuing a career at NASA?   

NASA is for everyone! I’d love to shout that from the rooftops! It takes people with a variety of skills to keep NASA Langley moving forward. I never imagined I’d have a news-centered job at a place known for aeronautics, science, and space exploration! But here I am! NASA Langley is its own ecosystem that needs everyone from accountants to business analysts to educators to firefighters, in addition to scientists, researchers, and engineers to be successful.    

I think it’s key to think outside the box when pursuing career opportunities, because no matter if it’s NASA or another organization, there’s likely a way to use your unique talents and abilities to elevate their work.  

How does your background and heritage contribute to your perspective and approach in your role at NASA?   

I understand the importance of ensuring diverse voices have a seat at the table because there’s value in being able to see and understand the world through another person’s perspective. As a journalist, I knew there was never one side to a story, and in my role at NASA Langley I want to make sure we’re being inclusive with our communications products to highlight the depth and breadth of our work and our people. Studies consistently show that diversity in the workplace contributes to business growth, innovation, and creativity, which are key aspects of a thriving, healthy work environment. 

The 2024 theme for Black History Month is “African Americans and the Arts,” spanning the many impacts that Black Americans have had on visual arts, music, cultural movements and more. How have the arts played a role in your life?    

My parents encouraged my sister and me to be well-rounded and participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, so I was a dancer, pianist, and violinist growing up. They also exposed us to musicals, plays, symphonies, and operas from a young age, and through that I developed an appreciation for the arts that continues to this day. I also love to laugh and regularly attend stand-up comedy performances in the area. Laughter truly is the best medicine and can lift your spirits in an instant!