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First Hispanic Woman In Space Receives Honorary Degree From San Diego State

Dr. Ellen Ochoa visited San Diego State University, so that she could receive...

Photo by Shalina Chatlani

Above: Dr. Ellen Ochoa visited San Diego State University, so that she could receive an honorary degree in this photo taken on October 2, 2019.

The former director of the Johnson Space Center and the first Hispanic woman to go to space was also a student at San Diego State University. Ellen Ochoa, who came back to her alma mater Wednesday, received an honorary doctor of science degree from the university.

San Diego State and high school students flocked to a lecture hall to hear Ochoa's speech. Ochoa answered few questions before her lecture, which took place just days after one of NASA's private partners, SpaceX, announced one of its major engineering projects, the Starship.

Listen to this story by Shalina Chatlani.

As a woman and a Latina, Ochoa cut a unique profile in the space program. She said there’s growing diversity in the aerospace industry.

"I know Gwynne Shotwell and of course she’s the president of SpaceX and she’s somebody a lot women in the aerospace industry look up to in addition to many of the people at NASA," Ochoa said. "And you see CEOs of Lockheed and various other companies that are women as well."

Reported by Shalina Chatlani , Video by Nicholas Mcvicker

She said for NASA diversity has long been a goal.

"Starting decades ago, I think NASA had a concerted effort to diversify their workforce and that’s something we continued to work on the whole time I was at NASA and I saw a lot of changes there," Ochoa said.

She said one of the ways to ensure more women and people of color make it into science and engineering fields is for schools to start offering those types of courses early, so more kids can get exposed to them.

Ochoa said she’s excited to be back at San Diego State to receive her honorary degree.

"Well, it’s a huge honor to be back at my alma mater, obviously something I never would have thought about many years ago when I was a student here," she said.

In her lecture, Ochoa discussed her journey through NASA and current activities aboard the International Space Station.

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Aired: October 3, 2019 | Transcript

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Photo of Shalina Chatlani

Shalina Chatlani
Science and Technology Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover all things science and technology — from the biotech industry in San Diego to rooftop solar energy on new homes. I'm interested in covering the human side of science and technology, like barriers to entry for people of color or gender equity issues on biotech boards.

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