For many people, being able to put “NASA Engineer” on a résumé would be good enough, but not for Stony Brook grad Sabrina Thompson ’07.
Aspiring astronaut? Check. Accomplished artist? Check. Business owner? Check. Aspiring author? Check.
It’s all in a day’s work for Thompson, who at a recent campus celebration offered a glimpse into a day in the life of a NASA engineer and highlighted the importance of diversity, particularly inner diversity. The event also updated students, faculty and staff on progress the University has made in implementing its diversity plan; highlighted successes; and acknowledged the contributions of many individuals and offices on campus. The diversity celebration followed a campus-wide seminar on implicit bias and sexual misconduct that was held in October.
“Stony Brook has worked hard to devise a progressive inclusion plan,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. “I’m proud that we are continuing to strive to develop a campus environment that encourages diversity, equity and inclusion and helps every student fulfill their full potential. Sabrina Thompson’s stellar career is an outstanding example for our students of how far a Stony Brook degree can take them, and we are very proud to call her an alumna.”
Describing a journey that took her from the Roosevelt, New York, school district to Stony Brook, and then to Georgia Tech and NASA, Thompson highlighted the importance of leading a well-rounded life.
“Before I graduated from high school, if I wasn’t studying, I was playing basketball or making art,” Thompson said. “When I got to Stony Brook, there wasn’t time for art.”
Though her art would be postponed, it wouldn’t be denied. Once she landed at NASA and experienced “working hours” for the first time, she had to figure out what to do with her newfound leisure time – something she hadn’t had since her pre-college days.
“I had to ask myself, ‘Who am I? What do I want to do? What are my values?’ I had to find myself,” Thompson said. “What I found was an artist, an engineer and a scientist.”
Thompson also started a business that merges art and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) with the goal of inspiring girls, especially those who are African-American, by showing them STEM through art in paintings or hands-on activities. In addition, she is writing a book aimed at middle school-aged girls.
Dubbing herself the “Artsy Engineer,” Thompson encouraged those in attendance at the Sidney Gelber Auditorium not to put themselves in a box.
“Think of diversity not only from an external perspective, but also internally,” she said.
The diversity celebration included special performances by the DDKY Korean traditional drumming group and members of the Stony Brook Ballroom Dance Team, which has represented Stony Brook at events for nearly two decades.
Also honored at the event were the winners of the 2018 Presidential Mini-Grants for Departmental Diversity, which is part of an initiative designed to foster new projects, test ideas and determine what may be the seeds of growth for the University.
This long-standing program supports selected proposals that promote awareness, skills and knowledge about issues related to race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, abilities, age and/or religion. It especially encourages proposals that are tied to the goals of the Stony Brook Plan for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity. The awards are shared from a total pool of $30,000, and award amounts are determined by the number of grants selected and approved for funding.
— Robert Emproto
2018 Presidential Mini-Grants for Departmental Diversity
1) Closing the Gender Pay Gap: Improving Women’s Salary Negotiation Skills
Project Coordinator: Marianna Savoca, Assistant Vice President for Career Development and Experiential Education, Career Center
2) Women in Science and Engineering Speaker Series
Project Coordinator: Angela M. Kelly, Associate Professor, Institute for STEM Education
3) “Braceros,” Photographed by the Hermanos Mayo
Project Coordinator: Eric Zolov, Associate Professor, Latin American & Caribbean Studies
4) Engaging with the Veteran Experience Through Library Programming and Collections
Project Coordinators: Kathleen Kasten, Head of Humanities and Social Sciences; Pamela Pfeil, Coordinator of Veteran Student Services; and Laurel Scheinfeld, Health Sciences Librarian, University Libraries, in collaboration with the Office of Veterans Affairs
5) Psychology Diversity Mini-Seminar
Project Coordinator: Aprajita Mohanty, Associate Professor, Psychology
6) Disability and Human Rights Justice: A Panel Discussion and Clinical Guidelines
Project Coordinators: Brooke Ellison, Assistant Professor, and Ghenet Weldeslassie, Clinical Associate Professor, School of Health Technology and Management
7) Team Jeopardy: What is Innovative, Patient-Centered and Engaging? Answer: InterProfessional Education at Stony Brook Medicine
Project Coordinator: Lynette Dias, Research Assistant Professor, Stony Brook Medicine
8) Creating Diversity and Inclusion Professional Development Opportunities for Student Affairs Professionals and Graduate Students
Project Coordinators: Jarvis Watson, Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs; Jennifer Rossler, Senior Manager, Human Resource Services; and Antonio Ferrantino, Assistant Director, Equity
9) Stony Brook Flu Vaccination Campaign
Project Coordinators: George Chen, Professor, and Jedan Phillips, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, Family Population and Preventative Medicine
10) Food with Meaning
Project Coordinators: Joan Dickinson, Director of Community Relations, and Cohen Miles-Rath, Graduate Assistant, Community Relations
11) Transforming Civic Engagement through the Empowerment of Marginalized Communities
Project Coordinators: Steven Adelson, Co-Director, Center for Civic Justice, and Ellen Driscoll, Interim Associate Dean of Students
12) Dress for Success Career Closet
Project Coordinator: Jennifer Green, External Fellowships Advisor, Graduate School
13) Promoting Diversity and Inclusion at the School of Social Welfare
Project Coordinator: SSW Diversity and Inclusion Standing Committee, School of Social Welfare