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Hortense Burt
Hortense Burt

Image above: Hortense Burt will receive the award for Educational Leadership during the 2009 Women of Color Technology Awards Conference in October. Image credit: NASA
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Inspiring young students to seek careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, is one of Hortense Burt's passions.

Burt, who is Kennedy Space Center's education projects manager, recently was recognized for her work in promoting minority education advancements in STEM by the National Women of Color organization.

Since 2006, Burt has worked in the NASA Education Programs and University Research Division of the External Relations Directorate. She oversees the center's University Education Projects with primary responsibility for the formulation and implementation of new initiatives and student internships.

Burt will receive the award for Educational Leadership during the 2009 Women of Color Technology Awards Conference in October. "Receiving this award is an honor to my mothers, for I was blessed with two, my grandmother and everyone else in my life who required that I do my job excellently," Burt said. "They told me to keep my eyes on where I wanted to go, but never forget where I came from, and that true success should be measured by how many folks I brought with me and helped along the way.

"It couldn't have happened without the support of my wonderful co-workers," Burt added.

Glenn Research Center Director Dr. Woodrow Whitlow and Deputy Director Robyn Gordon nominated Burt for the award.

"Hortense recognizes our critical national need to increase the number of students who are pursuing careers in STEM fields and she is more than doing her part to make this a reality," Whitlow said. "Her enthusiasm in engaging students and faculty is nothing short of inspirational. I would consider it a privilege for Hortense to work with my grandchildren."

"She is a wonderful role model to the students, a valued advocate for NASA's educational programs and an inspiration to her colleagues and friends," Gordon said.

According to Tyrone Taborn, CEO and publisher of the Women of Color magazine, Burt was selected from hundreds of nominees reviewed by the selection panel.

"Hortense is very deserving of this honor," said Division Chief Gregg Buckingham. "Her passion for reaching out to the public, especially students, is contagious. She is a great role model -- as a parent, co-worker and citizen."

Burt said her personal mission in her current job is to encourage every minority student she comes in contact with to do their best in school and seek a STEM field of study. "My goal is to aid in increasing the number of young minorities employed throughout NASA in these fields," Burt said.

She is responsible for university-level projects, but believes there is a need to inspire students at the elementary level, to ensure there are students who qualify for NASA and Kennedy's university programs as well as employment with the agency.

She said the most rewarding aspect of her job is talking to K-12 students about STEM careers and hosting minority K-12 students during a space shuttle launch. "Many of these students do not have a clue what we do here," Burt said. "This gives them an opportunity to learn and be inspired."

She said some of her challenges are convincing minority students they can be an engineer, astronaut or scientist; acquiring resources to fund and manage new projects; and having a diverse pool of students selected, by Kennedy mentors, as interns.

Burt is a graduate of Prairie View A&M University in Texas, where she received a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. In 2000, she joined NASA as a flight assurance manager in the Expendable Launch Vehicles Safety and Flight Assurance Office. She also was the mission assurance manager on Mars Exploration Rover Missions A and B and the Deep Impact missions.

A native Texan, Burt and her three children, James, Bobby and Afton, reside in Titusville, Fla. She is a member and actively involved in St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. When she isn't working with students, she enjoys reading, exercising and traveling with her children.
Linda Herridge
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center