NASA People

Center Snapshot: Kimberly Graupner
Kim Graupner. Image above: Kimberly Graupner likes her job with the Strategic Relationships Office (SRO) because it allows her to use her skills as well as her personality. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Jim Hodges

The phone rings. The cell's tone is the "Snuffle Bunny Song," and it's easy to picture Tiffany at the other end, wondering when mom will be home from NASA Langley.

Mom is Kimberly Graupner, technology infusion manager in the Strategic Relationships Office (SRO), and at first she speaks somewhat reluctantly to an inquisitor about 8-year-old Tiffany and you sense a desire for privacy.

And then the words tumble out, because Graupner is naturally gregarious, and because she is so proud of her middle child.

"She is, for lack of a better word, 'developmentally delayed,' " Graupner said. "When she was 18 months old, they told me I'd have to take care of her the rest of my life. To see where she is now, to see her take charge and be independent and do things on her own, it's like ..."

Graupner stops, but the animation and excitement on her face is clear. Then she added softly, "My family is everything."

The family also includes 10-year-old son Robert and 4-year-old daughter Ariel, in addition to husband Steve. Each child offers a reward for care. Each requires what Graupner calls "love language."

"My son, if you spend quality time with him, like playing a video game, that's important. That shows you love him," Graupner said. "(Tiffany's) love language is touch. She wants you to snuggle."

With family demands after work, it's fortunate that Graupner has a high energy level. High enough so that she also embraces golf, drawing and painting, cake baking and decorating and a great deal of church involvement.

She's in her 15th year at NASA Langley after beginning in the LARSS program in 1993 while at Richard Stockton College in Pomona, N.J. She first received a letter, saying that the LARSS program was full that year. Apparently, shortly thereafter, a position opened up.

A year later she was hired to work in the Simulation Branch. Then came stints with Electrical Optics and Controls and then systems engineering, on the Boeing 757 that was part of Langley for years. Then the space shuttle and crew exploration vehicle, reviewing documents and going to meetings.

"I realized I wanted to get out of the office and use my extroverted side," she said. "So I came over here, and I've been here a year and a half."

With SRO, Graupner works with companies in the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR). Part of that work will include a March 12 meeting in which companies with SBIR grants will interact with NASA Langley people in hopes of putting technology to work.

It's the first such meeting, and one that Graupner has worked steadily on for months.

It's part of a job that she enjoys. "This job uses all of my abilities and stretches me out," Graupner said. "I worked in aeronautics and had to be familiar with that. I worked in shuttle and had to be familiar with that, in exploration and had to be familiar with that. I have a broad range of knowledge about the programs, and I can use it (working for SRO)."

It's why she wanted to work for NASA in the first place. "I knew (in college) that I wasn't a static person," Graupner said. "I wanted to work for the government, but the government entity had to be diversified enough so that if I lose interest in something, I could go somewhere else and be productive. Langley has offered that to me. I couldn't ask for a better place to work."

But that's work. Home is calling. It's the "Snuffle Bunny Song" on Graupner's cell phone. Tiffany wants her. Rewards come from work, but they also come at home because children are special.

And because family is everything.