NASA Astronaut Sunita Williams to Speak at Columbia Engineering Class Day

Apr 19 2022 | By Allison Elliott
Astronaut Sunita Williams

NEW YORK—April 19, 2022—American Astronaut Sunita Williams will be this year’s featured speaker at Columbia Engineering Class Day on Monday, May 16. Williams, who is also an officer with the United States Navy, is the former record holder for most spacewalks by a woman and most spacewalk time for a woman. During her career, she has amassed more than 3,000 flight hours in more than 30 aircraft types.

Born in Euclid, Ohio, Williams is of Slovenian American and Indian American descent. She obtained a BS in physical science from the United States Naval Academy in 1987 and a MS in engineering management from Florida Institute of Technology in 1995. During her time in the United States Navy, she was assigned to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 8 and made deployments to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. She also trained as a test pilot. While deployed on Saipan in June 1998, she was admitted to the NASA astronaut program and began her training at the Johnson Space Center.

“Sunita’s commitment, perseverance, and love for her vocation makes her a wonderful role model for our students, particularly at this point in time,” said Shih-Fu Chang, interim dean of Columbia Engineering. “She is truly an inspiration to our students as someone who followed their passions and interests to forge a remarkable path.”

Williams was a member of Expedition 14 and Expedition 15 at the International Space Station and served as a flight engineer on Expedition 32 and commander of Expedition 33. In 2012, she became the second woman ever to serve as commander of the International Space Station. She was the first person to run a marathon in space on April 16, 2007 and the first to run a triathlon in space in September 2012, approximating swimming with weightlifting and resistance exercises on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED).

In 2015, Williams became one of the first astronauts chosen for U.S. commercial spaceflights with NASA and works with Boeing and SpaceX for their commercial crew vehicles. She was part of Boeing’s first mission flight to the International Space Station in August 2018. Her many awards include the Navy Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, NASA Spaceflight Medal, as well as prestigious civilian honors: the Golden Order for Merits from the Government of Slovenia and the Padma Bhushan from the Government of India.

Class Day 2022 will be held on Monday, May 16, at 12:15 p.m. It will be the first in-person engineering Class Day ceremony in two years.