Generations of Southern University engineering graduates work with NASA on major projects
“You are the future… The next generation of great engineers,” said former NASA engineer Morgan Watson to a group of young Southern University engineering graduates.
Also an engineering professor at Southern, Watson was addressing a group of five engineers currently working to support the NASA Space Launch System at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The mixed generations of engineers convened at a small reception held in late October in the atrium of the College of Sciences and Engineering.
Watson shared his experience as one of the first Black people to help integrate the Marshall Space Flight Center as a Southern University Engineering Cohort. After graduating in 1964, Watson went to work as a NASA engineer on projects like the Apollo Lunar Missions. Just four years later, the Apollo 8 Mission of 1968 was the first space flight to carry a man to the moon.
Today, the legacy with NASA continues as Southern recently became the first historically Black university to sign a NASA Mentor Protégé Agreement with Boeing.
“This agreement positions Southern as a supplier to provide engineering services throughout NASA, increasing the university’s capacity to compete on federal contract opportunities,” said Samuel Washington, director of the university’s Office of Governmental Contracting Services. “The Boeing partnership helps to showcase our capabilities and provide a labor force of highly trained engineering graduates.”
According to Michael Stubblefield, vice chancellor for research and engineering alumnus, federal contracting is a
$10 billion industry and has great opportunities for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Minority Serving Institutions.
“For universities alone, it is pivotal for our schools to increase their contracting capability, capacity, and infrastructure, to compete for these astronomical opportunities,” he said. “The university is extremely proud of these graduates and the work that they are doing to support Boeing and NASA in this extremely critical mission.”
Deanna Smith, event organizer and director of strategic engagement, reiterated to attendees that they are part of a profound legacy.
“We are standing in a room full of greatness,” she said. “From Apollo to Artemis, Southern University has helped to take men to the moon, and now our graduates will help to take them to Mars.”