Growing up in the small Cajun town of Broussard, Louisiana, I had no idea that one day I would be an attorney and work for NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Both my parents spoke French as their first language, and my grand-parents rarely spoke English. But growing up I heard stories about one of my dad’s cousins who went to college on the GI Bill and became an engineer at the Johnson Space Center. My family talked about “Uncle Don” like he was a superstar because of his job with the space program. Sometimes he would visit and give all the kids mission stickers, and we would treasure these as if they were made of gold. Although neither of my parents went to college, my dad always encouraged me to do well in school so I could get a scholarship and go to college like Uncle Don. My mom worked as a grocery store cashier for over 40 years, and my dad worked as a mechanic. They worked hard and saved to send their two children to Catholic school because they wanted us to get the best education possible. They saw education as the key to a better life, and their hard work and sacrifice was something that I never took for granted. After getting a full scholarship to college, I graduated as valedictorian from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and went on to receive a full tuition scholarship to Tulane University School of Law where I graduated with honors. I can’t really express the joy and pride in my parents’ voices the day I called to tell them that I had been offered a position as an attorney in the legal office at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. It was living proof that no matter where you come from, anything is possible with hard work and education.
Today I am the Assistant Chief Counsel for General Law in the Office of Chief Counsel at MSFC, and I have never lost my sense of pride about supporting the space program. For almost 20 years, I have practiced primarily in the areas of ethics, labor and employment law, litigation and fiscal law. I have had the privilege to represent the Agency before numerous administrative bodies such as the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Federal Labor Relations Authority, and have worked closely with Department of Justice attorneys. I am the functional lead of the Ethics Program at MSFC, and our Center was honored to be recognized by the Office of Government Ethics with an Ethics Program Award in 2010.
I was very fortunate to have wonderful mentors, male and female, from MSFC and other NASA centers as I grew and developed as an attorney. Over the years I learned that being a good attorney means being a good counselor to managers and individual employees. There is great satisfaction in helping clients find ways to accomplish their goals within all ethical and legal requirements. I have made an effort in my own career to mentor and encourage the new attorneys who have come after me. I am proud to work with wonderful dedicated people who make important contributions to human space flight, science, technology and to our nation.
I have also been blessed with a wonderful husband and two elementary age children, who always remind me of what is really important in life. I have learned as much from my children as I have from my formal education. When my daughter was about four years old she heard me speaking on the phone with her pediatrician who is female. When I hung up, she looked at me with wide eyes and said, “Mom, did you know that BOYS can be doctors too?” Because she had only known a female doctor, she assumed that all doctors must be female. That conversation really drove home to me how important it is to expose children to a variety of role models. To a child, perception is reality. NASA’s diversity of role models in fields like engineering and science helps show kids that there are no limits on what they can accomplish.
My experience with NASA has taught me that anything is possible with hard work and a few dreams. It is wonderful to work at a place where work-life balance is considered a priority, and where the whole employee is valued. And of course, I still enjoy going home to Louisiana to see my family, eat some good Cajun food, and answer the many enthusiastic questions that I always receive about working for NASA.
Growing up in a small Cajun town in Louisiana, Pam Bourque had no idea that she would one day become an attorney and work for NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center. As a child she loved school, and her parents encouraged her to work hard so she could get a scholarship to college. Although her parents never went to college, her dad loved to read, and reading and learning were always stressed in her family. She recalls her parents talking about college like it was a magical distant place that held the key to success. It was something to be strived for. Her family’s love of learning paid off when Pam did receive a scholarship to college and later to law school. She graduated as valedictorian from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and later graduated from Tulane University’s School of Law with honors. She began her career with NASA as an attorney in the Office of Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center. Today, Pam is the Assistant Chief Counsel for General Law at MSFC. For almost 20 years, Pam has practiced primarily in the areas of ethics, labor and employment law, litigation and fiscal law. She has represented the Agency before numerous administrative bodies and is the lead of the Ethics Program at MSFC, which received an Ethics Program Award from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics in 2010. She is also very active with the North Alabama Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, having previously served as Chapter President and chairperson of the Federal Labor and Employment Law Symposium. She is the recipient of numerous NASA awards, including the NASA Silver Snoopy Award, the Space Flight Awareness Launch Honoree Award, and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.