Episode 12 – USC President Believes Anything Is Possible

“We didn’t have much…” 

Dr. Wanda Austin found a way to achieve the impossible. At 7th grade, her teacher told her she was good at math. That one teacher fueled her confidence and two years later she found herself admitted to one of the most prestigious high schools in the country, The Bronx High School of Science. Once there, she finally believed college was in her future, and so she began to sift through college catalogs and ultimately landed at Franklin & Marshall College, which set her on a path of success. 


Dr. Austin’s story is about perseverance and leadership. It’s about finding an array of mentors when there are no role models who look like you. It is about trailblazing, paving a way, and becoming a “shero” for others.


In 2008 Dr. Wanda Austin became the first female and the first African American to lead The Aerospace Corporation. She led 3600 employees and managed annual revenues of $950 million. Today, Dr. Austin is the first female and the first African American to lead the University of Southern California. Hear her full story and why she is excited to lead USC. 


This episode will leave you feeling that nothing is impossible! 

Guest Bio:

Dr. Wanda M. Austin is interim president of the University of Southern California. She is the former president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation and served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Austin is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has served on the USC Board of Trustees since 2010. In 2018, she received the USC Presidential Medallion.

She graduated from The Bronx High School of Science, earned a B.A. in mathematics from Franklin & Marshall College, M.S. degrees in systems engineering and mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Ph.D. in systems engineering from USC.

Austin is committed to inspiring the next generation to study STEM disciplines and to make science and engineering preferred career choices. She is the author of Making Space: Strategic Leadership for a Complex World.

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