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Always Smiling Joan Belt Helps Goddard Put FOIA on the Map
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Joan Belt is a people person who meets challenges, and her Goddard colleagues, with a smile.

Name: Joan E. Belt
Title: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Public Liaison Officer, Office of Communications
Formal Job Classification: Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Specialist
Organization She Works For: Code 130, Office of Communications, Office of the Director

What is most interesting about your role here at Goddard?

I am the only Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Public Liaison Officer for Goddard. As such, every day is different for me. It can be busy at times working with Headquarters action items, Congressional inquiries, and administrative and legal appeals. I never know how many FOIA requests or what challenges will be waiting for me each morning.

I’m a “people person” and I really enjoy talking with all the people here, especially those who have long histories at Goddard. They paved the way for others including me. They looked out for me when I came here, took me under their wings, and we remain close to this day. Now I try to do the same for others just starting here.

What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done as part of your job at Goddard?

The most important thing I do is putting FOIA out on the map. I really enjoy talking to the contractors and helping them understand the FOIA process. I talk with most of them enough that we are able to work though most issues quickly and smoothly.

Photo of Joan Belt
Photo of Joan Belt. Credit: NASA

The most fun thing I do is put a smile on everyone’s face especially if they are having a bad day. I have many sayings just for that purpose. Some of my favorite sayings are “hold the cookies,” “oh, snap,” “you’re going to get the wet noodle,” and my very favorite which is “I’m done.” One or the other of these sayings almost always gets the person to smile.

What lessons or words of wisdom would you pass along to somebody just starting their career at Goddard?

If a young person at Goddard asked me what I have learned here, I would tell them to take advantage of any opportunities even if at first they do not really want to go in that direction. You never know what direction life will take you; there are always many choices. Choosing one direction could just lead to something wonderful. Be flexible.

I tell new people that I will help them through their journey here and that I will be there for them. I’m always glad to share what I know and help others get to where they need to go in their careers. I live by the saying “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I also like the saying “Pay it forward,” which means that any time someone does something nice for me, I turn around and return the favor by doing something nice for someone else.

Do you have a favorite way or place to kick back, relax, or have fun?

My favorite way to relax is going on an annual cruise with friends and family. I usually go during the summer for one to two weeks. I love the food, the entertainment, the people, and just getting away from everything and seeing new things.

Is there some place in the world that you want to visit, or some place you have been and want to go back?

In 2007, I went on a ten day cruise of the Hawaiian Islands. I had always wanted to go there. Hawaii has such bright colors – the rainbows, the landscapes and mountains, the flowers and plants, and even the clothing on the people. The temperature is perfect. I hope to return within the next few years.

Of Note: On October 26, 2011, Belt received a plaque “in grateful recognition and appreciation for 35 years of faithful service” to NASA. On November 29, 2011, Belt will receive a Robert H. Goddard Award, the Exceptional Achievement Team Award in the Professional Administrative category, on behalf of the FOIA Team, for outstanding contributions to the Center’s mission.

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Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.