Nicole Stott ('87, DB) was elected to the Embry-Riddle Board of Trustees in 2012. She is Chairwoman of the Academic Committee and a member of the Executive and Flight Safety & Education committees.
In a middle-school classroom in Clearwater, Florida, Nicole Stott chuckled when she read the findings on her career assessment exam.
“It said something like fashion merchandising,” she recalled. The prediction couldn’t have been more off base.
“My dad built airplanes in the garage when I was growing up and our family hung out at the airport,” Stott said. “Flying was kind of a thing that was always there. Something to do with flying was what it was going to be.”
As a NASA astronaut, Stott did more than just fly. She participated in two Space Shuttle missions and spent a collective 104 days living on the International Space Station (ISS), including 6 hours and 9 minutes working while suspended in space—with nothing between her and the universe but a tether connected to the ISS. Embry-Riddle has served as a tether of sorts for Stott, as well, keeping her tied to the people and experiences that have had a lasting impact on her life.
“I decided from the moment I got to Embry-Riddle that this place is unique and one way or another I wanted to stay connected,” Stott explained.
And she has. In 2009, she joined the Industry Advisory Board for the College of Engineering, participating in her first meeting via a satellite call from space. That same year, she inspired a standing-room-only audience of students with a question-and-answer session transmitted from the ISS by way of ham radio.
Back on Earth, the now retired astronaut embarked on a new career – creating space-themed artwork to forge a new pathway to the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math, as well as sharing the excitement of her spaceflight experience with students and others.
As the holder of an Embry-Riddle B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering degree, earned in 1987 at the Daytona Beach Campus in Florida, Stott gives back to the university as a frequent commencement speaker and volunteer. She joined the Embry-Riddle Board of Trustees in 2012.
“Even if I’m not on the Board, I need to be doing something that shows that I care about Embry-Riddle,” she said. “I need to be able to share the blessings that I’ve had with students.”
Soon after joining NASA she learned just how well her Embry-Riddle education had prepared her. “What I discovered was that not everybody had a hands-on, real-world appreciation for what they had studied. I felt like I had a huge advantage.”
During campus visits she takes care to inspire and encourage. “When I speak to Embry-Riddle students I congratulate them for choosing Embry-Riddle because it takes them down a really wonderful path.”
Setting Embry-Riddle apart is its commitment to the ongoing construction of high-tech facilities as well as a focus on undergraduate research that’s uncommon at other universities, she said. The building boom at the residential campuses includes, most recently, the John Mica Aerospace Engineering & Innovation Complex at the Daytona Beach Campus and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education Center at the Prescott Campus in Arizona.
There’s a need-driven type of mentality that goes into the way Embry-Riddle expands and builds, Stott said. “Not only are the buildings beautiful, but the facilities and labs inside them are thoughtful, functional, and cutting-edge,” she said. “Students have the opportunity to conduct meaningful research in our high-tech facilities, preparing them for the industry and the research world.”
As the university continues to roll out new degree programs – such as global security, spaceflight operations, and unmanned aircraft systems science – to meet industry challenges, Stott sees a bright future for Embry-Riddle. “The university has traditionally been very progressive, always finding an innovative way to present the curriculum to the students. I have no doubt that Embry-Riddle will keep evolving and I want to be here to help shape that future.”