Sandra Cauffman was born to a single mother in Costa Rica and began her life living in abject poverty. Her biological father abandoned the family early in her childhood. Cauffman’s stepfather was abusive emotionally and physically. He beat the children and frequently teased them by throwing food on the ground for them to eat while he ate from a plate. On other occasions, the step father ate in front of the hungry children. Eventually, her mother remarried an American citizen years later, and the new step father became a bridge for the family to go to the US where they found more opportunities.
As Ms. Cauffman was setting her eyes on higher education, she knew what she faced financially, but her strong character and will prepared her to take the risks and persevere. In the US there are very few scholarships for under graduate students, so she had to work day and night in a hardware store to cover the costs of her studies. Ms. Cauffman always aimed high and never gave up on her dream to work at NASA. After successfully graduating with a double major in physics and electrical engineering, she went to a job fair and was hired by a NASA contractor. The rest is history. The last thirty years she has methodically worked through the ranks of the agency and has become one of its more powerful leaders.
With a story that she borrows from her wise mother, Mrs. Cauffman explains how she was able to focus on the future, being authentic and embracing her past without shame: “In life one encounters nuggets along the way. You trip on them, and sometimes get hurt. Some people choose to pick up these nuggets and carry them in their back pack. Others, while they remember the nuggets, choose to move on and leave them behind.”
Learn also about Mrs Cauffaman’s advice to get a job with NASA and much more.
Hit the “Play” button above, listen to my conversation with Director Cauffman and receive strength and wisdom from her story. And, don’t be timid, leave your comments at the bottom. Write me; I want to know your story. You can log in with your Facebook or Twitter accounts or create an account in this site.
Produced by Felipe Gonzalez in Costa Rica and Carlos Garcia in Riverside California. Text edited by Sharon Hamrick de Marin.
Team Ingear truly believes that improving access to the best graduate education is key for achieving development. If you share this goal, help us!
Musical theme CreativeCommons