Employee ‘Proud and Blessed’ for Stennis Space Center Experience
Cheryl Timko has a primarily “low-profile” position in NASA’s Stennis Space Center Office of Procurement, but she has a definite front-and-center presence when it comes to promoting cultural diversity and serving as a role model for young students.
A native of Romulus, Michigan, Timko grew up in nearby Plymouth. Her earliest space-related memory dates to the Challenger tragedy in 1986, viewed on a TV monitor rolled into the classroom for students to watch. “The sadness we all shared in that moment is something I will never forget,” she said.
Timko served in the U.S. Army before accepting a corporate job in Colorado. In 2006, she migrated to Mississippi and began work as an administrative assistant at Stennis near Bay St. Louis in 2006. She completed a masters degree in 2017 and moved from the contractor’s ranks to join the NASA team as a contract specialist/officer.
In addition to her work as a contracting specialist at Stennis Space Center, Cheryl Timko works as a Special Emphasis Program manager for Alaska Native/American Indian awareness.
Her current role is somewhat behind the scenes but critical to center operations. It involves “cradle to grave” duties, administering all aspects of various Stennis contracts. Timko currently is working on contracts related to diverse site projects, from refurbishment of potable water systems to rehabilitation of the E Test Complex deluge electrical systems to work on the B-2 Test Stand in preparation for exploration upper stage testing for the new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
Beyond those efforts, Timko has a much more visible presence in her role as a Special Emphasis Program manager for Alaska Native/Native American awareness. Special Emphasis Programs were established more than 40 years ago to focus attention on groups that have historically been absent or underrepresented in specific occupational categories or grade levels in the federal workplace.
As a special emphasis manager, Timko works to develop strategies to eliminate barriers to employment and career advancement for Alaska Natives and American Indians; to identify gaps and barriers in hiring, pay, promotion, training, awards and retention of such individuals; and to take proactive steps to eliminate discriminatory policies and practices and ensure equal opportunity for people in those groups.
Diversity is a key characteristic of the Stennis workplace, which features a “plethora of different cultures,” Timko said. “It is the most diverse group of people that I’ve ever been a part of. I think that contributes to why it’s consistently ranked as one of the best places in the federal government to work.”
Timko’s oversight of contracts and special emphasis efforts both directly support NASA’s Artemis Program, launched to return humans, including the first woman, to the Moon by 2024. The backbone of the Artemis Program is the new SLS rocket, which will be powered by engines and stages tested at Stennis. “In my contracting work, I support the Artemis Program by providing acquisition support,” Timko explained. “In my Special Emphasis Program role, I contribute to Artemis by supporting a diverse team that includes employees who identify as special emphasis groups.”
In addition to those twin roles, Timko gladly participates in community outreach when possible, whether it involves science fairs or visits to schools. “I am most proud of the example I can be for young female students, including my 13-year-old daughter,” she said. “By getting out in the community and sharing my story, perhaps I will be able to influence young women to seek out a career in a science or technical field and become a part of the NASA family.”
There is a lot of story to tell for the Picayune resident who enjoys horseback riding and participates in the annual Dixie National Wagon Train ride from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to Jackson over a nine-day period. As a veteran, Timko carries the American flag on horseback in Picayune parades as well. She also has qualified to compete in national women’s bodybuilding in 2020. And though she is just a few years into her career as a NASA team member, Timko has garnered quick recognition for her work. In 2018, she was awarded a NASA Early Career Achievement Medal for exceptional service, and outstanding leadership and professionalism.
Looking ahead, Timko voices excitement for the opportunity to be a member of the Stennis family and a part of space exploration history through her work on behalf of the Artemis Program. “I feel proud and blessed to be able to share in this experience with coworkers, friends and family alike,” Timko said.
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