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Center Snapshot: Rise Williams
Rise Williams. Image above: Rise Williams approaches her job the way she does her life: with optimism. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Sasha Congiu, LARSS intern

Rise Williams always sees her glass as half full.

"I'm more like an optimist when it comes to having fun and doing things and trying not to let things hold you back," said Williams. "I think it's because [her parents] died a little young. You never know what's going to happen to you."

Williams, assistant executive at NASA Langley, working for Lesa Roe, the center director, takes every challenge as it comes and sees it as a learning experience. One of those experiences was getting her bachelor’s degree in business administration while raising two children by herself and working full time.

"I'm probably most proud of that because it took a lot. I had to sacrifice a lot of personal free time, but I was glad I did it," said Williams. "It was a really good feeling."

Before receiving her bachelor’s degree at St. Leo, she earned her associates degree in secretarial sciences at Thomas Nelson Community College while she did a co-op with NASA Langley.

"When I started out I never thought I would be working for a director. When you’re younger you just don’t think of those things," said Williams. "It's hard to believe.

Working for Roe involves great responsibility.

"When you come in in the morning, you never know. You may have to rearrange everything. Sometimes it's not as easy," explained Williams. "Every day is a challenge. I have to be her eyes and her ears."

Being a 30-year NASA veteran has had its perks. One was seeing her friend and former astronaut Leland Melvin fly in two shuttle missions.

"It's really neat seeing someone you know going up in space," said Williams fondly. She recalls how cool it was when Melvin had his birthday in space and family and friends sang happy birthday to him through video conferencing.

The feeling of the shuttle lifting off and the smoke trailing behind brings her fond memories too.

"It was like nothing you would ever believe," said Williams. "You see it on TV, but there’s nothing like seeing the launch. The people and public just love NASA."

Among her memories is going to the beach after one of the shuttle launches and seeing a little girl with a NASA bag who was so excited to be there.

"We are here for the younger kids. It's just so heartwarming. We do take it for granted working here every day, you know," said Williams. "The kids, they just love NASA. Even though it’s the last shuttle launch, some want to still be an astronaut. They are going to be working here soon, hopefully, taking on something new for us to do."

With the shuttle launches behind her, Williams still has a daily highlight: working in the new headquarters building.

"It's one of the first buildings on center in decades, and I think it's just amazing," Williams said, smiling. "Every day I walk into it, I just can't believe it sometimes."

Even with new changes to her job, she knows how to keep her life in balance. To de-stress after work, Williams goes to a nearby trail or bike rides around her neighborhood. "The trail is just peaceful. It's just me. Most people have partners," said Williams. "I just go by myself; I like it."

Williams also finds the flexibility NASA gives her a plus when it comes to spending time with her family.

"I like the family life here. Lesa has a family," said Williams. "So when we have to do something with our family she is very supportive and that helps, too. It probably helps the whole center."

Along with time with her family, Williams enjoys going to outside concerts, listening to jazz and going to wine festivals. Her favorite sport is professional basketball, and she has even had the chance to go to a few games.

Whatever the future holds, Williams will always have a positive outlook on life.

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