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Meet Stephanie Burke

November 03, 2022 SSAI in the News

In addition to being Native American Heritage Month, November is also Military Family Appreciation Month. To acknowledge that, we interviewed Stephanie Burke to learn a little about her experiences as a military family. Thanks for letting us get to know you more Stephanie, it's so exciting to hear about your journey!

Can you tell us a little about your family?

My husband and I have been married since 2004, we have one daughter, Teagan who is fifteen and a setter on her state volleyball team, and a golden retriever named Buck.

How did you meet your partner?
We met in my hometown of Vacaville, CA when my husband was stationed at Travis Air Force Base. He had been stationed at Travis for 6 years prior to meeting me.

Can you tell us what it’s like being a military family?
For our family, the military experience has been an incredible piece of how we live our life now and it has certainly given us a lot to be grateful for. Following our marriage in 2004, we moved to Kaiserslautern, Germany, where we were stationed at Ramstein Air Base for 5 years. After our first Germany tour, we got selected to go to Okinawa, Japan for 4 years. Then, although we were convinced we were coming back stateside, a position at Ramstein Air Base opened, and we went back to Europe for another 5 years.

Being a military family makes you adaptable in ways you never thought possible, it also teaches you what it’s like to be exposed to many different cultures that have the capability to humble you, while changing your perspective on life and how you live it. You learn a lot about yourselves as a couple and begin to find what’s important to your family values and traditions. Without being near your extended families, and for our family being outside of the U.S. for 14+ years, it can teach you resiliency and strength when you are at your weakest.

What was your favorite place you moved to for the military and why?
We have lived and traveled to many areas of the world, but our favorite place was a village called Olbrucken, Germany. We were accepted into village life, had many great German friends and loved our home there.  

What’s the best piece of advice you have for other military families?
Take advantage of everything the military offers you, and don’t be afraid to get out there and be involved with other military couples and families. My husband and I were both able to finish multiple degrees living overseas, travel, and meet incredible people who are still close family friends to this day. Our daughter was born in Germany in 2007, and we were able to provide her a fantastic German education, while showing her what living outside of the U.S. can be if you aren’t afraid to go out and experience it with an open mind.  

What was your favorite thing about being a military family?
How much I was able to grow as a person, a spouse, and a mother. It exposed me to a life that I have lived broadly, while also being able to learn and educate myself and our family on so many different irreplaceable experiences. We always get told we were pretty lucky on our assignments, timing is everything! Another great piece of advice for military families!

Have you ever had a job with the military yourself? 

While overseas I worked in higher education admin as a Director of Student Services for the Pacific Region, and a Program Training Coordinator in Europe for about 8 years total for both positions. I also worked in HR as a Testing Control Officer for the Department of Defense (DOD) for about 5 years in Germany.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Silverton, Oregon near Salem. My family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when I was 8, and I grew up in a town called Vacaville. It’s now a larger town in between Sacramento and San Francisco, CA.

Where did you go to school?
I went to Vacaville High School, completed my Bachelor’s in Aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, FL, then shortly after was able to complete my Master of Public Administration at Troy University, AL while being stationed overseas.

What is your current role at work?
I am the Lead Project Planner and Supervisor for the NASA DEVELOP National Program

Tell us a little about your work.
DEVELOP works with communities and organizations to address environmental and policy concerns through the practical application of NASA Earth science information. Conducting feasibility studies that bridge the gap between Earth science information and society, these projects help both participants and partners learn more about using geospatial information. 

Projects address priorities and concerns in nine thematic areas:  Agriculture, Climate, Disasters, Ecological Forecasting, Energy, Health & Air Quality, Urban Development, Water Resources, and Wildfires.

Three times a year, participants apply through a competitive application process. Those selected conduct 10-week research projects in interdisciplinary teams of 4-5 people. They work closely with DEVELOP science advisors and mentors to apply Earth observations address to real-world problems. Through this process, participants build both research and science communication skills. These skills and project experience help set them up for success in the workforce.

As the Lead Project Planner for the program, I manage the operational and administrative side of the program through SSAI, while working closely with our NASA customers at the DEVELOP National Program Office.

What excites you most about your work?
This work resonates with my past work experience in higher education admin working with the military and students. You get to experience DEVELOP participants when they first come into the program, who each have different capacity levels and skill-sets, and you get to watch their technical and professional development as they progress through the program, and transition into the world to do great things using what they have learned from the program. It’s very rewarding!

If you weren’t working in the field you are right now, what other job would you be interested in trying?
I would most likely still be working in higher education administration, again working with students, or own my own winery!  It’s a toss up!

What is your favorite hobby, what got you started on it and when did you pick it up?
My favorite hobby is reading. In the 5th grade my teacher challenged us with a reading contest to see how many books we could read in a summer, and I won! Following college I was so happy to be able to read for fun and not research, that I became a voracious reader. It’s my way of winding my mind down and centering myself.

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
The life and experiences my husband and I have created, not just for ourselves, but for our daughter, and how that might shape who she is later in life.

Share something that not many of your colleagues might know about you.
I have been known to always have been an extrovert, but I secretly love being introverted and being alone to work or enjoy time when I all hear is my own voice.

Have you learned anything new during the pandemic?
How to slow down and realize how valuable the simple things are that we take for granted. It’s also shown us that we can find home and work life balance, while still being successful at what we do.

What is something you’d like to accomplish this year?
I’d like to continue to work on my physical and mental health. I used to be a runner and would like to make that a central part of my life again, while continuing to focus on work and family life balance, which is a central piece of my mental health and family happiness.

What makes you smile when you’re having a bad day?
My golden retriever, who loves unconditionally, listens without judgement, and is never unhappy when you walk through the door, they are always happy and full of energy. Hard not to smile that kind of love.

What excites you about supporting our customers? 
The impact of our program and what it has done for communities and organizations. How much of a difference and opportunity our 10-week terms can provide to young professionals and their partner organizations.