UA Alumni at NASA Featured in Engineering, Communication Discussions

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — University of Alabama alumni who work with NASA return to campus this week to discuss the Space Launch System Program.

Two panels on engineering and communications will feature the chief engineer and the communication lead for the program.

SLS, NASA’s new heavy-lift launch vehicle, is essential to America’s future in human spaceflight and scientific exploration of deep space. Only with a heavy-lift launch vehicle can humans explore our solar system, investigate asteroids and one day set foot on Mars. The Marshall Center in Huntsville manages the SLS Program for the agency.

Two panel discussions with graduates from the College of Engineering and the College of Communication and Information Sciences will be held Thursday Nov. 7.

The engineering discussion, “Engineering the Future of Exploration,” will be at 5:30 p.m. in 38 Lloyd Hall.

The panel includes the chief engineer for the SLS Program, Garry Lyles, who graduated from the UA College of Engineering with a mechanical engineering degree in 1975. Other alumni on the panel include Michael Kynard, liquid engines manager for the program who graduated with an electrical engineering degree in 1987, and Michelle Taylor, an engineer with Boeing working on the SLS Program who graduated from UA with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1998 and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering in 2013. Also, Dr. Sharon Cobb, who graduated from The University of Alabama at Birmingham and is an assistant program manager for the SLS, is on the panel.

“This is the first opportunity at UA for the students in the College of Engineering to see the future direction of the U.S. space program,” said Dr. Beth Todd, associate professor and undergraduate program coordinator in mechanical engineering. “With the Marshall Space Flight Center as our neighbor to the north, the Space Launch System Program will open a number of opportunities for our students and faculty.”

At 5 p.m. in Reese Phifer, room 222, a group of NASA communications professionals who are also UA alumni will speak to students in the College of Communication and Information Sciences on “Communicating the Future of Exploration.”

Dr. J. Suzanne Horsley, an associate professor of advertising and public relations who helped coordinate the panel, said students will benefit from seeing the successes of those who have come before them.

“Opportunities like this one for students to meet with UA graduates help to put all the hard work they are doing in school into perspective,” Horsley said. “Often, our students don’t know exactly what they want to do when they graduate, but when they see that several of our alumni have succeeded in an interesting field like the space industry, it exposes them to more career possibilities. “

Panelists include Trey Cate, who received a master’s degree in journalism in 1995 and is now strategic communication lead for NASA’s Space Launch System; Shannon Raleigh of Media Fusion Inc., a 1994 graduate in broadcast and film serving as education and public outreach lead for SLS; Kim Henry, public affairs officer for SLS who received her bachelor’s degree in public relations in 2002 and a master’s in advertising and public relations in 2003; and Kristina Hendrix of Analytical Services Inc., who is internal communications strategist for SLS and who received her bachelor’s degree in public relations in 2003.

Full biographies for the communication panelists can be found here.

On Nov. 6, the SLS Education and Public Outreach team will pass out information about the SLS Program and answer questions from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the University’s Ferguson Center.


Adam Jones, engineering public relations, 205/348-6444,; Misty Mathews, UA media relations, 205/348-6416,