“It’s pleasant to be essential, but it’s additional significant to be nice.”
NASA Kennedy Room Heart’s Jennifer (Cannon) Kunz heard all those phrases from her mom numerous times when expanding up in Fort Walton Seaside.
As with other important lessons from her mother and father, who however live in Fort Walton Seashore, she has carried them with her in the course of her 30-12 months-job at America’s multi-consumer spaceport.
The most current quit on that efficacious journey: Kennedy’s affiliate director, technical. In that role, she oversees all of the technological function at the Florida spaceport, serving underneath Kennedy Director Janet Petro and Deputy Director Kelvin Manning.
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Kunz was a short while ago promoted from director of Security and Mission Assurance, where she supplied Kennedy’s last endorsement that NASA’s launches would be safe and thriving. She aided establish the Professional Crew Plan, was instrumental in transitioning Exploration Ground Programs to serve the multi-consumer spaceport and worked to guarantee the results of NASA’s Launch Services, Orion, and the International Area Station applications.
She also built sizeable impacts to the space shuttle and Constellation programs.
Kunz performs difficult, but smart. She is pleasant, but never be expecting her to back again down from a problem.
“My mom and dad are people who don’t give up. ‘Let’s adhere it out let us see how we can make it better’ — and that’s what I use a ton in my function ecosystem to this day,” Kunz claimed. “Things get really hard and you do not just give up you determine out a distinctive way to do it.”
Kunz’s father is a retired electrical engineer and graduate of Auburn University, exactly where Kunz attained a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering. But she had loads of visits to the campus right before that, boasting, “I’ve been heading to Auburn football game titles considering that I was in the womb.”
Kunz afterwards acquired a Master of Science in engineering management from the College of Central Florida.
A retired high college science instructor, Kunz’s mother has been equally influential in her existence, encouraging her as a college student to “spread her wings” towards a STEM job, which was at the time non-common for ladies.
“I think I was doubly blessed for the reason that I grew up loving science and math,” Kunz stated. “At times I was the only girl in my engineering lessons. But I was raised by moms and dads who did not put boundaries on me. There was a ton of encouragement — and self-confidence that I could do nearly anything.”
Kunz expended her entire childhood in Fort Walton Beach and graduated from Choctawhatchee High School. She has visited every Christmas except previous year due to COVID-19.
“It’s funny, when I converse about heading house … even though I have lived (in Merritt Island, Florida) for a longer time than I lived there, that is still dwelling to me,” she claimed.
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Kunz’s partner, who also works at Kennedy, understood he wished to be a aspect of NASA from a younger age. That was not the scenario with Kunz, who did not imagine about NASA as an work possibility until eventually she was refreshing out of school.
That is when a contact forwarded her résumé to a supervisor at Kennedy. She been given a call, built the eight-hour generate to Florida’s Place Coastline for an job interview, and admittedly was intimidated on arriving at the middle, expecting to see “Ph.D.s in lab coats.”
“But what I observed was the most collaborative team of men and women who enjoy the space enterprise and gave their heart and soul to it,” she explained. “I saw that more than 30 several years ago, and nonetheless to this working day.”
Kunz characteristics a large section of her results to mentorship from John “Tip” Talone, a retired Kennedy personnel and previous flow director in the shuttle program who helped her have an understanding of the value of producing and diversifying her encounters.
“He considered in me. He would push me out of my consolation zone all of the time,” she mentioned.
Kunz has earned numerous prestigious honors, such as the Middle Director’s Strategic Leadership Award, NASA’s Distinguished Support Medal, and most recently the Presidential Rank Award-Meritorious Government.
“People all-around you acquiring assurance in you, recognizing and appreciating your attempts, is just one of the most vital things we can do for persons,” Kunz mentioned. “So that is really significant for me.”
Kunz is a single of eight senior executives at Kennedy who comprise “Leadership for the Future,” a group targeted on making leaders on all levels at the middle. The purpose is to value, reward and get ready leaders for NASA’s upcoming. Sometimes people leaders never even know they are leaders nonetheless they just have to have a minimal encouragement.
“If that’s a thing I can give back in my profession … someday, when I’m ready to retire, that’s going to be just one of my greatest accomplishments,” she claimed.
Kunz and her husband have two grown children who — not astonishingly — grew up unafraid of the unidentified. Kunz remembers a time when her daughter declared she was striving out for a sport she had never performed.
“I recall on the lookout at her contemplating how grateful I was that she was fearless, because if you panic failure, you are going to dread hoping new factors,” Kunz reported. “Instilling that in your young ones is definitely essential. I think I handed that down to my young ones from my mothers and fathers, and that would make me very pleased.”
Currently, Kunz’s daughter and son are productive, large-character persons, who, like their mother, are carrying out quite perfectly absent from “home.”
“Now they’re on their have and they’re thriving,” she said. “As a mum or dad, that is the biggest matter that you can consider.”
That sentiment would be proudly echoed from Fort Walton Beach.