Dr. Wanda M. Austin is an American businesswoman who is internationally recognized for her work in aeronautics and systems engineering. She is co-founder of MakingSpace, Inc., a systems engineering and leadership development consultant and motivational speaker. She served as interim president of the University of Southern California for the 2018-2019 academic year, and led the institution through a crucial transition period. She is the former president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation, an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to the application of science and technology toward critical issues affecting the nation’s space program. From January 2008 until October 2016, Austin led the organization’s 3600 employees and managed annual revenues of $950 million at 17 U.S. locations. As the sixth president, she was the first woman and the first African American in the 57-year history of the organization.
Austin served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology until January 2017, advising the President of the United States in areas where an understanding of science, technology and innovation was key to forming effective U.S. policy. Austin is a member of the Defense Science Board and the NASA Advisory Council. She is an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), a counselor of the National Academy of Engineering, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a trustee for the University of Southern California and on the Board of Directors for the Chevron Corporation and Amgen.
Growing up in New York City, Austin attended The Bronx High School of Science, then earned a B.A. in mathematics from Franklin & Marshall College, M.S. degrees in systems engineering and mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh and a Ph.D. in systems engineering from the University of Southern California.
Austin’s professional achievements and honors include the National Intelligence Medallion for Meritorious Service, the Air Force Scroll of Achievement, the National Reconnaissance Office Gold Medal, the AIAA Godard Astronautics Award, the Career Communications Group Black Engineer of the Year Award, the Horatio Alger Award, the Bob Hope Distinguished Citizen Award, the National Defense Industrial Association Peter B. Teets Industry Award, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award. The University of Southern California awarded her its Distinguished Alumni Award, an honorary doctorate, and its highest honor, the Presidential Medallion.
Austin is committed to inspiring the next generation to study the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines and to focus on careers in science and engineering. She is the author of Making Space: Strategic Leadership for a Complex World, which explores the leadership principles she learned during her decades-long journey as an engineer, space industry executive, daughter, wife and mother.