NASA director pushes SEAS graduates to follow passions, prioritize self-care

Media Credit: Ethan Stoler | Contributing Photo Editor

NASA Deputy Director for Technology and Research Investments Christyl Johnson delivers a speech at the SEAS graduation ceremony Friday.

The School of Engineering and Applied Science gathered its graduating class and seniors’ families for a commencement celebration at the Smith Center Friday.

With 36 different degrees awarded, the three-hour ceremony featured a keynote speech from alumna Christyl Johnson, who now serves as the deputy director for technology and research investments at the NASA Goddard Flight Center. Johnson highlighted the characteristics she said graduates should embrace as they lead a life of fulfillment.

Here are some of her insights:

1. Follow passion, not money

Johnson said that because she is dedicated to her work in the aerospace community, she leaves work every day with confidence. She said engineers should follow happiness – not a high salary – to find success.

“What is it that brings you light and puts a smile on your face?” Johnson said. “If you can pursue that kind of dream, you will do it because the passion is there.”

Ethan Stoler | Contributing Photo Editor

Graduates of the School of Engineering and Applied Science stand as faculty file into the Smith Center Friday.

2. Fear is an illusion

Before she relocated to D.C., Johnson said she was worried about how her husband would adjust to a new job and where she would enroll her daughter in daycare. But Johnson said she now realizes that her worries were just unnecessary stress, and that her fear only held her back.

She added that fear is often an excuse for engineers to keep themselves from reaching their full potential.

“Everything that you do in this life is totally up to you,” Johnson said. “No one is powerful enough to stop you but you. Make it happen.”

3. Self-care is a top priority

Above passion and courage, Johnson said the most important and common characteristic that happy people share is an enjoyment of life.

She encouraged graduates to appreciate each day and prioritize self-care – whether it’s through cutting down on social media use or spending more time with family.

“You have to take some time to really check in with yourself,” Johnson said. “Take the time to take care of yourself. Live your passion, master your relationship with fear and make sure you’re present every single day.”

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