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I Am NASA Stennis: Katrina Emery

Katrina Emery
Katrina Emery, manager of the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity for NASA’s Stennis Space Center and the NASA Shared Services Center, has built an agency career on inspiration from her parents.
NASA/Danny Nowlin

Growing up in Compton, California, Katrina Emery’s parents taught her a simple lesson that has carried her through more than 20 years of increasingly significant work roles to a senior leadership position at NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

“Nothing beats a failure but a try.”

Since those childhood years, Emery not only has tried but has succeeded in establishing a career as an educator and leader with the world’s foremost space agency.

A resident of Slidell, Louisiana, Emery currently serves as manager of the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity for both NASA Stennis, located near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and the NASA Shared Services Center, also located at the site. “I tell young people that their career path starts early,” Emery said. “It begins with the inspiration you draw from friends, family, and community.”

For Emery, that inspiration came from her parents, both of whom were educators. Emery subsequently earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and master’s in public administration from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Her university mentors eventually urged Emery to apply for a NASA professional leadership fellowship. “I didn’t think I would qualify, but my mentors really pushed me.” Emery recalled. “As it turns out, I was one of only 10 individuals selected out of hunreds of applicants.”

Emery enjoyed her experience with the agency. When the fellowship ended, she worked under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act to help manage NASA-funded grants to minority-serving institutions. She then joined the agency team in 2007 as project manager for NASA’s University Research Centers, which focused on promoting a competitive aerospace research capability among the nation’s minority-serving institutions.

Following more fully in her parents’ footsteps, Emery became director of the Office of Education at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, in 2012. She moved to the same role at NASA Stennis in 2013. A large part of her work in that office focused on inspiring student interest in STEM studies and careers.

“I always remind students that early career programs are a great way to get your foot in the door,” said Emery, who was recognized by Diverse: Issues in High Education as one of the top 25 women in high education in 2013. “Ask your mentors what opportunities are out there for you – and do not underestimate your experience and skillset.”

I want to empower all employees to contribute their unique talents to ensure the success of NASA’s mission.

katrina emery

katrina emery

Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity Manager

In 2017, Emery assumed her current role and now leads in the development and oversight of the center’s diversity and equal opportunity policies, awareness programs, and standards. The work also involves supporting the newest NASA core value – inclusion. “Our focus is to ensure that we maintain a work environment where all employees feel welcomed, respected, connected, and engaged,” Emery said. “I want to empower all employees to contribute their unique talents to ensure the success of NASA’s mission.”

Emery and her team highlight special emphases throughout the year and provide various opportunities for employees to participate in diversity and inclusion programs and development activities.

Meanwhile, Emery maintains her commitment to ongoing self-education. She has completed several management and leadership training programs. She has earned numerous NASA group awards, as well as recognition for professional achievements and service within the community.

For Emery, it is all part of her philosophy for career growth and leadership. “Build relationships to stay up-to-date and find future opportunities,” she said. “Be open to new jobs that will grow your skillset and open even more doors. Join groups that expand your professional network, and always showcase your skills.”

For information about Stennis Space Center, visit Stennis Space Center.