American Astronautical Society (AAS) awards the 2021 Sally Ride Excellence in Education Award to Dr. Elizabeth Newton
Dr. Newton is recognized for re-imagining traditional higher education and radically transforming the Ohio State University Battelle Center in order to prepare STEM students to act, innovate and lead in the public interest.
Her innovative model stewards a student community for the air and space industries, engaging hundreds of students from 12 different colleges in exploring the industries’ political, economic, social, legal and technical dimensions. This community reminds students that it isn’t just the engineers that allow us to fly, but that we all have a part to play in our exploration of the sky.
The Sally Ride Excellence in Education Award recognizes an outstanding educator in either a) the delivery of space education or b) the use of space in STEM education. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, started Sally Ride Science in 2001 to inspire young people—especially girls—to stick with their interest in science and to consider pursuing careers in science and engineering. She served as CEO of the company until her death on July 23, 2012, after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. In 2013 Sally was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor.
“I only met Sally once, when she spent a day with me and others at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. She had such an impact on the space program and on women in STEM, I’m humbled to receive an award named for her!” Dr. Newton said in reaction to the news.
Nic Flesher, an OSU Battelle Center alum, nominated Dr. Newton for this award on behalf of the many students and graduates Dr. Newton has impacted through the OSU Battelle Center. “Those who Dr. Newton mentored now work in space fields across the country including government policy, healthcare and engineering. They are still learning their fields and navigating their careers, but grounded in what Liz showed them, they are building inclusive cultures around themselves,” said Flesher.
Andrew Steen, a proud OSU Battelle Center alum and engineer in the aerospace industry, believes this is an award well deserved and credits Dr. Newton and OSU Battelle Center for helping him get to where he is today, “They forever have my gratitude for the semesters of training, teaching and friendship. I thoroughly and honestly owe them for who I am today: a confident young professional with an excellent career in the space industry,” said Steen.
“Dr. Newton has taken me from a student into a young professional polished and ready to enter the workforce,” said another OSU Battelle Center alum, Kayla Watson, highlighting that Dr. Newton’s influence and care do not stop once students have graduated. “Dr. Newton has additionally served as a phenomenal mentor. We usually meet up and enjoy coffee once a week (virtually now due to the pandemic), and I am always left in awe from her insightful advice and wisdom.”
Part of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, the OSU Battelle Center for Science, Engineering, and Public Policy leads interdisciplinary teams from across the university to develop solutions for high-consequence humanitarian and national security challenges.
Its student programs and courses prepare and professionalize students to be systems-thinkers so that they can translate scientific and technical evidence, anticipate the impacts of technological change, and innovate in the public interest. In addition to the air and space student community, the center has student communities for the bio-security enterprise and for the sustainable energy sector.
Dr. Newton joined The Ohio State University in December 2016. In addition to her position in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, she is clinical faculty in the Integrated Systems Engineering department of the College of Engineering. Dr. Newton has used OSU Battelle Center to provide students studying Integrated Systems Engineering opportunities to leverage what they have learned into impactful opportunities in aerospace. Jacob Keller, an ISE Student, created an independent research project, under Dr. Newton’s mentorship, that was accepted for a presentation for the International Astronautical Congress. OSU Battelle Center teamed with ISE student (now alum) George Valcarcel to create the inaugural Urban Air Mobility Symposium in 2019.
The Sally Ride Excellence in Education Award will be presented at the 2021 AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium taking place in October in Huntsville, Alabama, which is home to NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and the US Army Space and Missile Command. Huntsville will also be the future home of US Space Command.