EEM Grad Serves as Keynote Speaker at 2018 SEAS Graduation

Christyl presenting her keynote speech

Dr. Christyl Johnson, a 2012 EEM doctoral graduate, provided the keynote speech at the May 18 SEAS graduation ceremony in the Smith Center. Christyl, who presently is the Deputy Director for Technology and Research at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, did her doctoral research on the topic of green propellants for aerospace propulsion systems. The tile of her dissertation was “Environmental Life Cycle Criteria for Making Decisions about Green versus Toxic Propellant Selections.”

According to a number of students, Christyl’s speech was highly impactful because she pulled key aspects of a successful career (and life) from her successful career and distilled them into four main points. She said that these are factors distinguish people who are successful at living their dream from those who are just going through the motions. Here is a summary of her four points:

GradsChristyl presenting her keynote speech

1. PASSION.  Christyl said that everyone should ask the question “what is it that I really enjoy doing and would do whether I was being paid to do it or not?”  One should not take a job based on other criteria such as family tradition or because someone else has expectations of you.

2. FEAR. Here, Christyl was not talking about actual physical danger, but instead about fear “that paralyzes you and keeps you from even trying to realize your dreams.”  Her way of understanding and dealing with fear involves treating it as an acronym: FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL.  She said “whenever you are gripped with fear, you have to identify what is real about the situation and what is only false evidence appearing real.”

Prof DeasonProf. Deason served as School Marshal

3. FOCUS.  Christyl said that everyone has only a limited amount of energy and therefore it is important to not expend any of it comparing yourself to others or making decisions based on keeping up with anyone else.  “The moment you get distracted by the people around you, your focus gets skewed and you either end up taking 40 years to make a 10-day journey, or you wake up one day and say ‘how did I get here?’” She advised: stay FOCUSED.

4. BEING PRESENT.  This involves making a conscious decision each day to enjoy your journey.  As you focus on your goals and objectives, one should pause each day to check in on themselves to see how they are doing and to make sure they are enjoying the journey.  “It’s not about running so hard and thinking I’ll be happy when I get to the goal, you need to be happy with the direction you’re heading in, who you are, and the contributions you are making today. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us, so make sure you are enjoying your life TODAY.”

EEM lead Professor Jonathan Deason served as as the master of ceremonies of the graduation ceremony as the SEAS School Marshal. The three-hour ceremony included the awarding of 36 different degrees in front of an audience of 5,000 students, parents, siblings, other relatives and friends.

EEMProf. Deason with Christy

Click here to read a summary of Christyl’s doctoral research.