My interest in space stems from my belief that what we have done, are doing, and can do in space is critical to the future of humanity. Throughout my career—whether it was working directly for NASA, training in Russia to become a space flight participant, advising aerospace corporations how best to help NASA be successful, or having the honor of being the lead for civil space policy for the Obama Presidential Campaign and transition team—I have worked toward that goal. My belief is that space exploration, science, technology, and commerce have the potential to contribute significantly to this country’s technical advancement, scientific knowledge, economic growth, educational advancement, and national security. While I have always wanted to travel to space myself, I feel it is more important to facilitate the space travel aspirations of others, not just my own. One of NASA’s unique roles is to lead the U.S. space effort in ways that allow people to experience the benefits and value of NASA. not just by flying in space but also by learning about our discoveries and participating in public engagement and outreach activities.
It is an honor to pursue my interest in space through public service as NASA Deputy Administrator. I believe in the importance of public service and the positive impact that government can have on people. This belief comes from growing up in Michigan and volunteering for the political campaigns of my uncle and grandfather, who were members of the Michigan State Legislature and State Senate. These experiences. combined with my parents’ positive outlook and encouragement, gave me the confidence to set goals for myself that were not typical for a girl from Haslett, Michigan. At Colorado College in Colorado Springs, I decided to major in political economy, inspired by this interest in public service. My freshman year at college I even volunteered for Ronald Regan’s campaign for President! But 4 years later, when I graduated from Colorado College and moved to Washington, D.C., I volunteered on John Glenn’s Presidential Campaign. After studying political science and economics in college, a semester of that overseas, I believed the U.S. policy of restricting foreign aid and other national policies were misguided and set out to forge a better future.
After volunteering for the John Glenn’s Presidential Campaign for a few months, I was hired as a receptionist and after a few months there, moved to the scheduling office. When the campaign was over, I was hired at the National Space Institute as the secretary/bookkeeper/receptionist. I would not trade these experiences for anything. My advice to folks just starting out in their career has always been to take any opportunity, if it is in your field of interest. Whether it is answering phones, doing basic research, or making PowerPoint charts—get to know people, do your best, and learn everything you can. The excitement from my youthful career experiences in the space field lit the spark that continues to burn today. My career-long passion for space began in those jobs, which led to graduate school, where I got my masters in science and technology policy with an emphasis on space policy.
My family has always been extremely interested and supportive of my work—so I don’t feel too guilty when I have to work from home or take my BlackBerry® to football and soccer games. I have a wonderful husband of nearly 25 years and two teenage boys. While my schedule is very busy now—I have had more flexible jobs in the past, when it was even more important for me to be home—I actually believe the boys and I are closer because they respect my choices and they know I want them to make their own choices as well. Now that they are 16 and 18 years old, I think they are thrilled that I have a life and am not so focused on them. As for my husband, that is another story. I’m pretty sure I need to focus on him a little more—we miss each other a lot with my long hours at work. He has been incredible at taking on the major parenting and household duties at home. I couldn’t do it without him.
My career has been extremely rewarding, and having the opportunity to work with exceptional women throughout it is a big part of that reward. Women continue to break down walls in the traditionally male-dominated aerospace fields, but we need to do better. While women have reached parity with men in a number of professional fields, engineering and many of the science disciplines stand out as areas in which improvement is still needed. NASA counts strong and accomplished women at all levels of the agency, but I am too often among a small minority of women in senior management meetings. A more diverse workforce can make even greater contributions to our quest for knowledge about our planet and universe, and allow us to reach new heights in technology and innovation as we inspire current and future generations to become interested in science, technology, engineering, and math.
I am grateful for each day that I am allowed to come to work at NASA. My mother and father encouraged me to set goals and reach them, and NASA is a place where each day we challenge ourselves to exceed our grasp. Our efforts contribute to a better future for humankind, and it is a privilege to serve this great nation at such a critical time.
For Lori Garver, the excitement from her “youthful career experiences in the space field lit the spark that continues to burn today.” Her road from Haslett, Michigan, to NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. was carefully charted by a goal-setting confidence motivated by two youthful experiences: the first was volunteering to work in the political campaigns of her uncle and grandfather, who were members of the Michigan State Legislature and State Senate; and the second was inspired by her parents’ positive outlook and encouragement. For Ms. Garver, while “women continue to break down walls in the traditionally male-dominated aerospace fields … and have reached parity with men in a number of professional fields, engineering and many of the science disciplines stand out as areas in which improvement is still needed.” Accordingly, Ms. Garver, who is the NASA Deputy Administrator, sees herself as a positive role model not only for what can be achieved at NASA by women, but also as an exemplar for young women who are interested in space-based disciplines. Educationally, Ms. Garver found her way into NASA management through majoring in political economy at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, and earning a master’s degree in science, technology, and public policy from George Washington University. Her rise from a secretary/bookkeeper/receptionist at the National Space Institute to her current position, while not meteoric, was not an easy undertaking, but it was one that today empowers Ms. Garver to serve as a fulcrum in ensuring that “NASA is a place where each day we challenge ourselves to exceed our grasp.”