Texas Tech University

NASA Flight Director Discusses Leadership at Women's Institute Luncheon

Emily Gardner

March 27, 2015

Ginger Kerrick discussed the leadership lessons she learned in her experiences.

Ginger Kerrick
Ginger Kerrick recently became a professor in the Rawls College of Business.

Leadership starts in childhood, Texas Tech University alumna and NASA employee, Ginger Kerrick, said to faculty, staff and students as part of the Women's Leadership Institute's spring luncheon.

Kerrick, the flight operations directorate assistant director for the International Space Station at Johnson Space Center in Houston, presented her “Lessons in Leadership” on Thursday at the International Cultural Center. Kerrick was the second speaker to participate in the Women's Leadership Institute, which is in its inaugural year.

“I think it's really cool that we get to have such a qualified speaker for our first year in the program. It really just sets the program off on the right foot,” said BaLeigh Waldrop, co-chairwoman for the Gender Equity Council'sAd-Hoc Committee on Leadership & Development. “Also, I think it's really neat to hear from a woman who has excelled in her field and paved her way in a field dominated by men. It just really cool to hear from her and her perspective about the lessons she has learned and to be inspired by that.”

Kerrick broke her presentation up into four sections: leadership lessons learned in childhood, college years, early career and late career, telling stories about her personal journey and life to illustrate her points. Her take-home points were:

  • Set a goal and map out a plan
  • Be resilient in the face of adversity
  • It is important to seek our mentors and leaders
  • Leaders own up to mistakes
  • Leaders fall and pick themselves back up
  • Don't settle – be innovative to get where you want to go
  • Identify deficiencies and propose solutions
  • Don't make assumptions – ask why
  • Challenge the perceived standards
  • Embrace change
  • Make a difference

“When I look back on my 23-year career, the things that make me feel the best is when walking down the hall – I've had this happen – walking down the hall and this guy comes up to me ‘Ms. Kerrick, Ms. Kerrick, I know you don't remember me but you gave a talk at my school and it made me want to come work here and I'm here,'” Kerrick said. “Or, a young lady from Amarillo who was told by her mom that girls don't study science, and I gave a talk in Amarillo and she is now in the co-op program at NASA doing very, very well. Those things right there, they make a difference. You need to make a difference in people's lives because that is what will carry on.”

Ginger Kerrick
Kerrick was the first female, Hispanic flight director for NASA.

Kerrick received her bachelor's degree in physics in 1991 and her master's degree in physics in 1993 from Texas Tech. She was the first female, Hispanic flight director for NASA and has received numerous awards, including the NASA Special Achievement Award and the Texas Tech Distinguished Alumni Award. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the Texas Tech Alumni Association, and recently became a professor in the Rawls College of Business for the STEM MBA program where she taught her first class Wednesday.

“I come back to Texas Tech all the time,” Kerrick said. “I love my school. I have a Texas Tech bag, a Texas Tech phone. I'm pretty annoying at work because there's Texas A&M University, University of Texas and Purdue University grads all around me, so I flaunt the red and black every chance I get.”

The Women's Leadership Institute is in its first year at Texas Tech. It is sponsored by the Gender Equity Council's Ad-Hoc Committee on Leadership & Development and is divided into faculty, staff and student portions. The faculty and staff meet twice a year for luncheons whereas the student portion is a little more active, Waldrop said. Students are nominated by faculty and staff and then must apply for the institute before the top 25 are selected. They also network and participate in service opportunities and leadership development.