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Center Snapshot: Mike Kaszyca
Mike Kaszyca. Image above: Mike Kaszyca is a finalist for the Elmer B. Staats Young Acquisition Professional Excellence Award. Photo credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Jim Hodges

The picture of someone who loves the out of doors is of a person resisting work's routine. Getting away from structure. From life's lists.

Mike Kaszyca has walked 700 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

"My goal is to one day finish that," he said. "I've done about a third. I still have about 1,400 miles to go. If I have time off and I take a vacation, and (he and wife Kristin) don't visit family, I like to hike the trail. It's my thing."

He and Kristin have a book of the National Parks.

"We have a goal to visit all of the parks," Kaszyca said.

Goal-oriented and methodical, it's clear that -- rather then breaking the mold -- Kaszyca's avocations dovetail with the characteristics necessary to do his job at NASA Langley. Working for Procurement and with a seven-person tactical team, he manages the 10-year, $1 billion ROME contract, which touches virtually every part of the center, from maintenance to operations to engineering and the related Information Technology.

Kaszyca has done it well enough to be nominated for the Elmer B. Staats Young Acquisition Professional Excellence Award, given in honor of a former Comptroller of the U.S. by the Procurement Round Table at the National Contract Management Assn. convention each year. He finished in the top five from among 28,000 government procurement professionals.

"I didn't win, I know that," he said, though the winner hasn't been announced. "It's just an honor being nominated and being one of the five finalists."

That nomination came only eight years after taking a job in procurement without really knowing what it was. What he knew is that jobs in finance and management were hard to come by then, and he was about to graduate from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in that area.

"The NASA Contracting Intern Program (NCIP) program went out to various colleges and did interviews," he said. "I saw the notice and thought I might as well try this out. I don't know what procurement really means, but it's NASA, sure."

He was interviewed and two months later offered a job.

"I still didn't know what procurement was, didn't know what a contracting job was, but hey, it was NASA. Let's give it a shot. I fell into it and just loved it," Kaszyca said.

He was sent to Glenn Research Center as an intern. It was 50 miles north of Massillon, Ohio, to which he moved after being born in Detroit. Birth made him a University of Michigan fan and an Ohio State hater. Growing up in Ohio occasionally made that awkward.

"I'm very much a maize-and-blue man," he said of Michigan's colors. "I love college football. I don't love Ohio State."

Growing up in Massillon made him a college football fan.

"If you're born in Massillon hospital, they give you a football if you're a boy," Kaszyca said. "They love their football there."

Success in the job is the long-term goal. He earned his Masters of Business Administration at William and Mary last year and aspires to management in NASA procurement.

The Appalachian Trail will go without him most of this summer because his primary hiking partner, Kristin, is due with their first child in August. Boy? Girl? "We don't know," Kaszyca said. "We want to be surprised."

But there will be time to go to Denver for a convention, where he will be recognized as a Staats finalist.

And, he hopes, there will be a way to work in part of another goal: to climb all of Colorado's "14-ers," the 51 or so mountains in the state that top out at more than 14,000 feet in elevation.

"I've done eight or nine of them already," Kaszyca said. "While I'm out there, I plan to hike at least one."

And check it off a list toward achieving another goal.

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman